EDITOR - TODD LIHOU: City would be wise to make a deal on the tank issue

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Word around the campfire is tanks on Cornwall's waterfront could only be filled with chemicals for one summer – before being emptied and ultimately removed.

A source confirmed to me the city and Trillium Distribution are in talks that would allow the company to operate the tanks under construction near the Cornwall Harbour for one summer, before agreeing to leave the facility shortly thereafter.

In other words, if we can put up with a few months of operation the tanks could be removed forever.

If I'm the city, I make this deal.

Of course city hall isn’t confirming anything. CAO Norm Levac was non-committal when I talked to him, and the city sent out a media release on the tank issue a few days ago advising residents that work on the project would resume soon.

Of course this sent ripples throughout the community, with many demanding action.

Chief among the critics is Mark MacDonald, a former city councillor turned community activist who along with a group of others said earlier this week they would be occupying a small piece of the property with the cabin used for the annual 'cabane a sucre' Francophone festival.

MacDonald said the plan is to occupy the area until more answers come forward.

One of my sources at city hall advised caution right now. Don't forget, in order for this 'deal' to go forward that would see the tanks removed, they have to be finished so Trillium can use them for one summer.

The tanks will contain calcium chloride, which is used to melt ice in the winter, and acts as a dust suppressor on roads and at construction sites during the summer.

Word is Trillium has already signed contracts for the coming year, and needs a place to store its calcium chloride – which is Cornwall.

Which brings me back to the same point – make the deal.

It’s not the best we could hope for, which would be an immediate halt to construction, followed by a big fat apology from the federal government for the royal screw job we got.

But all things remaining equal, if the parties involved can agree the property will be vacated in short order, I don’t see anything better on the horizon.

Let’s not forget Trillium and the Pollard family are not the bad guys (though they are in dire need of an education on how to deal with the media). The company signed a deal in good faith with the federal government and if my last name were Pollard I would probably be just as upset as they are likely to be at this time.

If they can be convinced to move on after just one season of operation on the Cornwall waterfront then critics of the tanks can claim victory and we can move on.

The next issue on the horizon, though, is who will foot the bill for the decommissioning of the site once Trillium leaves?

Tank critics like Chuck Charlebois and MacDonald were both guardedly optimistic about the deal when I spoke with them recently – but the pair also had some pointed questions about who pays for what once Trillium moves out.

Those questions, at least at this early juncture, are not easy to answer.

The city will argue long and hard it is the federal government, which still owns the property, who should get out the cheque book. Ottawa, I would wager, will be quick to say otherwise.

Tank critics have said all along that there will be a cost to the removal of the tanks – but that we should swallow it, because it is worth 10 times that amount by way of a waterfront clear of industry.

I agree. Make the deal.

Geographic location: Cornwall, Ottawa

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