Mayor Jack Mussallem reflects on past year

Mayor Jack Mussallem discusses the high and low points of past year, and what the concerns and considerations are moving into 2012.

With 2011 wrapping up in only a few days, the Prince Rupert Northern View sat down with Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem to discuss what he believes the high and low points of past year were, and what the City’s concerns and considerations are moving into 2012.

Mayor Mussallem had much to talk about when it came to what he considers to be the highlights of 2011, first of which being a population increase for the community.

“The Provincial Government of British Columbia informed me [earlier in the year] that in 2010 they estimated we had an increase in population of approximately 996 people.” Mussallem said.

The mayor then chatted about the rise of employment at the Local 505 Longshore Division and the new jobs created due to construction out at Ridley Terminals being a highlight.

“We’ve seen the Longshoreman Division have a call for hiring. We know that there use to be 80 people working out of the Longshore Hall, now there’s 300.” He said adding that the Longshore Hall is preparing for additional hiring, before moving on to say, “There’s 75 to 80 people working on the expansions out at the Ridley Terminals coal yard… There are currently upgrades going on there. We know there will be a third stacker-reclaimer out at the coal year by Christmas of 2012.” Adding this will eventually mean an increase in employment.

Another highlight Mussallem discussed was the upcoming employment possibilities at the Scallop Grow Out facility.

“We are optimistic about the Scallop hatchery… That will become the brute stock area for the development of immature scallops that will be transferred to grow sites, and that will create some at-home jobs in the Aboriginal communities and areas adjacent. That will be quite an opportunity moving forward.”

Mayor Mussallem then moved on to discuss what he considers to be the low point of 2011, when the Norwegian Star cruise line decided to change it’s itinerary.

“The Norwegian Cruise Lines announcing they wanted to change their itinerary after ten or eleven years of coming here [was a low point]. Changing an itinerary is certainly understandable, but at the same time when you only have one cruise ship company a week, it’s a big loss to a community.” Commented Mussallem, adding,  “Going forward we hope to see others come and do some test visits here and stop in and see what the community has to offer in 2012 and then we hope to have at least one cruise ship company, possibly two companies, visiting us a week in 2013.”

Looking forward, Mussallem talked about a number of priorities he has going into the New Year, starting off with the City’s budget.

“We’ll continue to fine-tune the budget. A lot of people that ran for office heard overwhelmingly for a majority of people that they were concerned about the annual tax increases and would like the City as much as possible to hold the line.” He said, adding that another main concern is to “build the tax base to help out with the vacancy we have in regards to housing, whether it’s homes, or vacancy rates in apartments. And at the same time, although there is possible projects pending, the other concern of course is until we get more on the tax roll, and have more people working, the City has to be really mindful of it’s cost. So one of my suggestions to Council was to fine-tune the budget and over the last term, the Council worked with me and was able to offer some properties for sale to put them on the tax roll and to reduce the City’s maintenance on buildings that were surplus to our need.” Mussallem finished.

Additionally, the mayor said over the next year the city will work with community partners to do various things in terms of sprucing up the community, that the City will encourage more economical development to create more employment, will be looking into various community projects and will be looking at what can be done with Watson Island.