RED ROCK, Ont. — The Mayor of Red Rock says the township will take Riversedge Developments to court to try to force a speedier cleanup of the former Norampac mill site.
Riversedge purchased the 243-hectare property from the municipality for $10 in 2014.
Mayor Gary Nelson said the company has been busy with a former mill site it acquired in Iroquois Falls, and "now they're going to be busy in Fort Frances," where Riversedge bought the former Resolute mill earlier this year.
"So it doesn't look like they're coming back to clean [Norampac] up, so we will be taking them to court," Nelson said.
Riversedge had said it would redevelop the property but, according to the mayor, little has been done besides demolishing some of the buildings.
Company president Justus Veldman insists Riversedge is still working on the cleanup.
"We just had an environmental contractor there again, just about a month ago," Veldman said.
He expressed frustration with negative publicity about the company's performance in Red Rock.
"I'm getting so tired of people saying 'not happy, not happy.' I took over a great big mess. I didn't make the mess at that site. As a matter of fact we started to really, really clean it up and we're getting somewhere."
Nelson feels the process is taking too long.
"There's an oil tank down there that's been leaking, and the cement and ready rod and everything that's lying all over the place down there. The mill office is full of mould. It's got to come down," he said.
Nelson said he's concerned that children will get into the site "and somebody's gonna get hurt."
But Red Rock's beef with Riversedge also involves money.
Nelson has said the company owes $2 million in taxes, and the township has now hired a collections agency.
Veldman, however, said he's waiting for the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation to reassess the property because the current assessment, he said, is based on an operating paper mill.
"It's an empty industrial landfill. There's not a building on there that's useable," he said.
Veldman said Riversedge filed an appeal the day it took ownership of the site.
"Between the lawyers and the town we have to come up with a long-term solution, but that's not charging taxes at a paper mill rate."
Veldman said he understands MPAC inspected the site in October, adding "we''re getting real close to getting it assessed properly."
The dispute between Riversedge and Red Rock marks a stark change from the positive relationship they had when the company acquired the property in 2014.
Shortly after, Riversedge announced plans to establish a deepwater port with a new wharf.
This would allow a new manufacturing enterprise at Red Rock to ship biomass pellets across Lake Superior.
“By having a port, by having a rail, having natural gas and having the power to build the plant, this makes (the project) shovel ready and will entice investors and pellet plants to come,” Veldman said in an interview in March 2015.
The project never materialized.
Don Evans, a partner who represents Riversedge in Red Rock, recently stated that the company thought it had a development deal at the time with a northern Ontario company, but that firm declared bankruptcy soon after.