'We want it': Grand Falls-Windsor mayor says paper mill site should be turned over to town

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The mayor of Grand Falls-Windsor says the town is having a difficult time planning for the future while waiting for the province to decide what will happen with the Abitibi mill site. 

Minister of Transportation and Works Al Hawkins told CBC News that the demolition of the old paper mill is complete, but there are still environmental tests to be done.

Mayor Barry Manuel said it's basically "an abandoned industrial site" on the Exploits River, steps from downtown, and the town wants to make sure it doesn't stay that way.

The town has made multiple requests for access to the land, which Barry said the town hopes will be used for future developments to attract residents and tourists.

"Really we want to make sure that the entire property is used to the best interest of the community and whatever that becomes is still unclear," said Manuel.

Old site, new plans

Manuel specifically referenced the last remaining building left on the site, saying council asked for the training centre to be spared during the demolition because "we felt we had some use for it."

However, he said the town was unable to access it.

"We want it turned over to the town basically. We're not looking for any kind of financial arrangement here," said Manuel.

"We would like to have the land and we want to make sure that any liabilities are addressed before that happens."

A Supreme Court ruling in 2010 holds the provincial government responsible for the environmental liabilities after mistakenly expropriating the mill in 2009. 

The cost to clean up the site has been estimated at $100 million.

Hawkins said the provincial government expects to have an update on the mill at the end of spring or the beginning of summer. 

Until then, Manuel said it's hard to make plans until the results of those environmental tests are known.

"I guess we would have to enter into discussions with the government to determine exactly where their thinking is on this and what kind of land transfers would have to take place," said Manuel.