Bankrupt is a mighty powerful word.
Whether Mayor Jack Mussallem was taken out of context or not, once a municipality leader utters the B-word, eyebrows are raised and pocketbooks slam shut.
Recently, Quinn Bender of The Northern View did a four-page extensive report on the state of Watson Island. Soon after publication, many other members of the media tuned in again to Rupert’s island of dreams and nightmares.
During at least one of those reports, Mussallem uttered the B-word.
“I wouldn’t wish this on any municipality in British Columbia. If this matter does not get resolved in a positive way, and the City can not get rid of the monthly maintenance costs, and we cannot get participation from good, honest, forthright people who are interested in seeing this project move forward, it could bankrupt the City of Prince Rupert in a 13-month period,” Mussallem was quoted in a CFTK television report.
The next thing you know, Vancouver media are lining up to do in-depth examinations of Prince Rupert’s desperate moves to avoid bankruptcy.
The simple fact of the matter is, Prince Rupert may have a $500,000 operating shortfall that can be rectified by either higher taxes or cuts… but bankruptcy is not inevitable.
Mussallem continues to say that maintenance fees from Watson Island are crippling the city.
A Nov. 9, 2012 court filing from the City of Prince Rupert said the City has spent $400,000 since taking over the site in 2009 and maintenance comes in at about $80,000 per month.
As confirmed by Rupert CFO Dan Rodin, since October 2011, the Watson Island Development Company (WatCo), has been paying those maintenance fees, currently $90,000 per month.
To boil it down, for the past 18 months Mussallem has been crying bankruptcy despite the fact the City of Prince Rupert hasn’t even been paying these maintenance fees.
Under no circumstance can one argue that what Sun Wave has done out there is proper or the circumstance Prince Rupert finds itself in is fair. Additionally, the horrid state of disrepair and possible catastrophe from a spill at Watson Island are real. And finally, make no mistake, Mussallem is absolutely correct that remediation of the island must take place immediately. That the legal challenges must stop.
However, let’s not perpetuate the decade-long economic doom and gloom scenario by frivolously throwing around threats of impending bankruptcy.
It does not reflect reality and harms this city’s credibility and reputation.