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City of Port Alberni begins salvage of Somass Lands

City still searching for development partner
The remains of the old Somass Sawmill still stand within sight of Port Alberni’s waterfront, where city council is finetuning its vision for the area. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The City of Port Alberni has started salvage of materials on the former Somass Sawmill site.

The city took possession of the property in February. Despite hiring security for the site, city CAO Tim Pley told council during a meeting on Monday, Oct. 24 that there has been some trespassing and theft of “small equipment” and copper wire on the site.

As a result, the city engaged Bowerman Construction in September to provide project management services “on a trial basis,” removing copper wire from the site and selling it locally to Alberni Foundry. Over an 11-day trial period, Pley said the city paid $33,000 for this work and saw a revenue of $29,000.

“Our goal was to have this to be revenue neutral, and it is very much in that ballpark,” said Pley. “While a contract crew was active on site, we experienced fewer trespasses, and it appeared that theft was lower on site.”

The city has also had “a lot of interest” from various groups when it comes to purchasing components of the site, said Pley. With a project manager on site, Pley says the city may be able to identify outbuildings, components and equipment that can be salvaged and sold at a revenue higher than the cost of removal.

Council voted on Monday to continue working with Bowerman Construction on this project until the end of the year.

Mayor Sharie Minions sais she has “a lot of confidence” in Bowerman Construction.

“I think this is a way we can make some progress on the property in the short term,” she said.

READ MORE: City of Port Alberni looks for ideas on Somass Lands

While the city continues to search for a development partner for redevelopment of the Somass Lands, Pley said city staff are only taking on projects that are revenue neutral.

“Demolition there is likely going to run into the millions,” said Pley. “In the meantime, we can reduce the burden on the property, and if we can do that without spending taxpayers’ money, it lessens the amount of demolition work that will have to be done at a later date.”

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Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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