Matchee-Neeb Road agreement coming

Mistik Management's Al Balisky and Travis Kiel from Meadow Lake OSB listen to the RM of Meadow Lake council on Dec. 6 regarding details to a new road agreement.

Mistik Management’s Al Balisky and Travis Kiel from Meadow Lake OSB listen to the RM of Meadow Lake council on Dec. 6 regarding details to a new road agreement.

By Rhonda Cooper and Terry Villeneuve

Regular maintenance of a portion of the Matchee-Neeb Road east of Meadow Lake is set to be transferred from the rural municipality’s responsibility to the three forestry mills in the area.

A meeting Dec. 6 between the RM of Meadow Lake No. 588 and Mistik Management Ltd. was their third such meeting that saw them discuss numerous aspects of the proposed deal which has been talked about since the summer.

Involved is approximately 50 kms of secondary highway beginning just east of the Oriented Strand Board mill to the Meetoos intersection on the edge of the provincial forest boundary. One of the sticking points is the term of the contract. On the table are two suggestions: a three-year agreement with the option of a two-year extension or a five-year contract, renewable after four years.

“We have many road agreements with (Dept. of) Highways and RMs regarding road maintenance,” said Mistik’s Al Balisky, adding this particular stretch of road is important to the forest users. “It’s an economic benefit to the area and keeps all three mills running.”

At an earlier meeting, Travis Kiel, a representative from the OSB mill, noted he would like to see the $300,000 the three mills currently pay in annual taxes, be allocated to road maintenance.

Councillor Doug Bacon wasn’t sure of this and noted tax dollars go into all areas, not just roads.

“However, we do want to work with you,” he said.

In lieu of road maintenance fees, the RM sees industry assuming 100 per cent of road top and culvert maintenance on the 50 km, with the RM looking after ditch and sign maintenance. In exchange, industry will be allowed to haul primary weights of 75,000 kg on super B and 62,500 kg on six axles for nine months of the year – not during spring break up – with the RM still having the authority to close the road as needed due to weather conditions.

The road has been subject to many discussions in recent years because of its high usage for heavy haul. Division I councillor Jean-Paul Beaubien noted this particular road handles a significant number of regular passenger vehicles as well.

“By improving the road we are making it safer for everyone who uses the road,” he said, adding that during the summer months a number of residents access that area for recreational purposes.

RM Reeve John Lawson noted this style of agreement is not new territory for them.

“What we are looking at for this time is something more long-term,” he said. “As soon as they get back to us and we come to an agreement, it will be signed. They are as anxious as we are, if not more so, to get this completed.”

While no date has been set for finalizing the agreement, Lawson said it could be signed before year’s end.

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