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DND not ready to negotiate base agreement: spokesman

A spokesman for Defense Minister David Pratt says the federal government isn't ready yet to begin negotiations to keep CFB North Bay open for the next 20 years.
A spokesman for Defense Minister David Pratt says the federal government isn't ready yet to begin negotiations to keep CFB North Bay open for the next 20 years.

North Bay Mayor Vic Fedeli had said representatives from the defense department would be in the city tomorrow and Tuesday to negotiate a deal based on a letter of understanding signed six years ago.

Premature for discussions
But Darren Gibb, Pratt's director of communications, said, that to his knowledge, DND officials weren't going to be in North Bay because it's premature for discussions to begin.

"We're not yet ready to begin negotiations but we will be meeting this week in Ottawa with our own people and people from the Justice Department to finalize the principals of that memorandum," Gibb said, referring to the letter of understanding.

"We're getting our house in order putting together the principals that will be in that letter and once we agree on that, we will be in a position to negotiate an agreement."

If DND officials are in North Bay this week, Gibb added, it's likely for some matter unrelated to negotiations.

The letter of understanding had already been signed between former Defense Minister Art Eggleton and former Mayor Jack Burrows and former city administrator Tim Sheffield in May of 1998.

A disaster
North Bay chief administrative officer David Linkie was out of his office Friday and could not be reached for comment, and Fedeli said he wasn't aware if the scheduled meetings had been canceled.

Fedeli has already called the letter of understanding as "a disaster" for North Bay.

It calls for North Bay to assume the mobile support equipment/transportation building, the recreation centre, chapels, messes, family resource centre “and any other buildings deemed surplus” by the defense department.

Same standard
North Bay would also be responsible for operating and maintaining the new $24-million NORAD Sector Air Operations Centre, which will be housed in an above-ground building now under construction.

As well the city would have to provide a number of services “including but not limited to” a recreation centre and swimming pool, a family resource centre, auto and ceramic clubs, combined Roman Catholic/Protestant chapel, food services in the new SAOC operations building, and medical/dental service “to the same standard as now provided at CFB North Bay, the standard to be determined by the Canadian Forces Medical System.”

Tax hike
Services such as police, fire and ambulance would also be the responsibility of North Bay as would snow removal, grass cutting, grounds and physical plant maintenance, garbage collection, water, sanitary and storm sewers, roads, sidewalks and parking lots.
The letter does not mention whether North Bay will be compensated for things like medical and dental care.

The letter also calls for the $1.1 million the city receives from the base every year to be put toward maintenance of the facility, rather than having it go into the municipal coffers.

That would mean a loss of $1.1 million in revenue, Fedeli said, the equivalent of a two per cent tax hike.

“We’ve got to go into negotiations with the mindset that this thing has got to be redone to make it work for the taxpayers of North Bay,” Fedeli said Wednesday.

“That’s our single goal. It’s got to work for the taxpayer.”