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Why hasn't the City of Prince Rupert sold Watson Island?
Some times elected officials say things that just make you shake your head in utter befuddlement.
Such was the case with the words of Mayor Jack Mussallem in relation to Watson Island. While not commenting on the legal challenge from the Watson Island Development Corporation (WatCo) specifically, he said:
"It is city council's number one priority for the strategic plan for 2014 to get Watson Island back on the tax roll and creating employment for people in the region."
And yet, after years and years of negotiating with WatCo, publicly touting an agreement to sell it to the company for $5 million and accepting money from the company while battling a lawsuit from former owners Sun Wave Forest Products, Watson Island remains in the hands of the city.
And, what's more, the city will now have to spend countless thousands of dollars and hours of staff time to fight a legal challenge from the company that took the financial burden of the site off of the taxpayers of Prince Rupert and saved the city millions of dollars in maintenance fees.
Here's an idea, and it may just be crazy enough to work: If your number one priority is to get Watson Island back on the tax roll then sell the damn thing and move on.
It's the simplest of ideas, but one that seems to be eluding the city. If the item at the top of council's priority list was truly to sell a piece of property and you have an interested buyer who you've agreed to sell it to, there is no reason whatsoever it should still be in the city's hands.
But what's done is done. Because of council's unwillingness to sell Watson Island to WatCo, council not only has a major legal challenge on their hands but an environmental time bomb that is only getting closer to spilling an absurd amount of chemicals into the environment. And when, not if, those containers fail, the City of Prince Rupert will be on the hook for a lot more than it can afford.
Saving the taxpayers that cleanup bill should be the top priority now.