Barry said company officials have been working behind the scenes for a period of time.
“Negotiations about the deal slowed down during the summer when different officials were on vacations. We lost all the summer and now we’re into the fall. And, of course, when lawyers for different groups get involved, things can slow down to a snail’s pace,” he told the Advertiser last week.
“Most of these things are about having a reasonable arrangement which usually comes about when people actually task themselves to finishing negotiations and getting the job done. This was not happening over the past few months.”
Barry said his company will work with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the new provincial Department of Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development to rebuild the wharf adjacent to the plant before it reopens in 2015.
He said Mayor Roy Drake has requested a meeting with company officials. That meeting will probably take place in Grand Falls-Windsor during the week of Nov. 10 to 14.
Barry said because public money will be involved in the wharf construction, the wharf frontage has to be passed over to the Town of Harbour Breton.
The town was expected to pay 10 per cent of $1.8 million — towards the project. Barry said his company will pay the town’s portion but will still pass over the wharf frontage to the town upon completion.
“We have to work out a tax agreement with the town about this that will be reasonable for all parties involved,” Barry said. When people spend millions on something like this they want to know they have a financial mechanism in place that is feasible and realistic.”
Barry said that his company is solidly behind the plant in Harbour Breton.
“Harbour Breton has been, and will be, the most important location for the aquaculture industry on the south coast. We are committed to modernizing the plant so it will remain the heart of the industry in the area.
“I’m saying this in a time when the industry is facing some serious challenges, such as sea lice and super-chill conditions. However, this is no reason to be negative, as aquaculture industries in other parts of the world have faced similar challenges. They made better cage site management decisions such as those related to stocking densities, and the industry survived. We can do the same in Newfoundland.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Roy Drake said the situation is frustrating given the lack of communication with the Barry Group over the past few months.
“I requested a meeting with Barry to talk about the overall issue and to find out why no work has been done on the plant or wharf up to this point in time,” Drake said in an interview last week.
“We should have not have to find out things from the media; Barry should have been forthcoming to us about the situation. The uncertainty in this matter is very disappointing for council and the community.”
As of Nov. 5, Drake said he hadn’t heard from Barry concerning the proposed meeting for Grand Falls-Windsor.
Drake said council is meeting with Larry Ingalls of Northern Harvest on Sunday, Nov. 9, to discuss the plant situation with that company.
“Some of Northern Harvest’s fish, that is now ready to be harvested, was supposed to have been processed in Harbour Breton.
“Some of the fish will be processed in St. Alban’s, but a fair amount of the fish will be sent out of the region for processing. This means that jobs are not only lost in Harbour Breton, but are being taken out of the region as well.”
Melinda Langdon is the union local president for the Fish Food and Allied Workers (FFAW/Unifor) in Harbour Breton. She said union officials met with Barry last January to discuss the plant.
“Barry said then that renovation work would start on the plant on May 1 and production would resume in October of this year,” Langdon said.
“He said that production more or less had to start in October due to an arrangement with Northern Harvest Sea Farms.
We next heard that the plant would not be ready for processing until Feb., 2015, and now we’re hearing it’s going to be late in 2015 before processing will resume.
“We’re wondering, why didn’t Barry renew his lease with Cooke for another year if he didn’t have the financing in place to reopen the plant until late 2015?”
She said while some workers have qualified for EI and another 47 have gotten work on a short-term community project, to enable them to qualify for EI, it’s a worrisome situation.
“Many will be in a tough situation come the summer of 2015 as we wait for the plant to be made ready for salmon processing again.”
Langdon said union officials are hoping to meet with Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Vaughn Granter in St. John’s Nov. 16 and 17.