THUNDER BAY -- CN says it will now take days or even weeks before negotiations on the James street swing bridge can resume.
After a meeting last Thursday, where the company gave a proposal to the two communities to get the bridge re-opened to vehicle traffic, CN officials said there would be an answer to a counter-proposal Monday afternoon.
But on Friday Fort William First Nation raised questions over the legality of at least two road allowances used by CN in the community. Chief Georjann Morriseau said a 1906 agreement between the community and Grand Trunk Railway didn't include certain areas the company is using.
"CN is currently trespassing on at least two road allowances that were exempted from the original appropriation in 1906,” Morriseau said in a release.
On Monday morning the company said it would now need more time to respond to the counter-proposal.
"At the last meeting, Fort William First Nation raised questions on CN's title for the first time in over 100 years. While CN is confident in the quality of its title, these complex questions will require answers before CN can respond to the City's latest proposal," company spokeswoman Lindsay Fedchyshyn said in an email.
Mayor Keith Hobbs said he was surprised by Fort William First Nation's comments but it was that community's choice. CN said negotiations won't resume until the land issue is settled, which could take days or weeks.
"If that's the case, its what it is," Hobbs said. "People are banging heads right now and that happens in negotiations."
Lawyers have assured him the city is on solid legal ground that the company is responsible for the maintenance of the bridge.
"I don't want to slam CN at this point, I think I've done that enough. I think they're being irresponsible here. Both communities are suffering as a result of this and them not doing their due diligence the way they should be but that's for the courts maybe to decide."
Hobbs is hoping to keep the dispute out of the courtroom but city council will have a legal discussion on the issue July 21.
While the proposal and counter-proposal were not made public, Hobbs said the company's offer did include cost-sharing with the city, which he's not happy about.
"I don't want the taxpayers to foot the bill for this bridge. That's not going to happen from my point of view," he said.
The bridge has been closed since Oct. 29, 2013.