Fishers eye fish plant renovations

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo The existing fish plant in Hay River is 40 years old.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
The existing fish plant in Hay River is 40 years old.

That idea of renovating the fish plant was discussed at the April 6 annual general meeting of the NWT Fishermen’s Federation, although no final decision was made.

“This would be using the current building, gut it, and pretty much just use the shell and rebuild it accordingly,” said Jason Grabowski, manager of field operations for the NWT with the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation (FFMC) in Winnipeg. “So you could expand it if you wanted to develop the processes for other future development.”

Grabowski said the concept of a renovation was discussed at a meeting of fishers in October.

“That was just an option that we wanted to present to see which way fishers wanted to go,” he said.

Stacy Linington, president of the federation, said a renovated plant would be cheaper to rebuild, last longer and be bigger than a new plant.

“We’d be crazy to not take on the bigger one,” he said. “It gives us a little bit of flexibility. It’s bigger than what we need right now but it allows us to do a little bit more value-added stuff, hire more people and create better income for the fishers.”

The federation president said an engineer’s report called the plant a 100-year building.

“It’s 40 years old,” he said. “So if we were to rebuild it and get it set up to do the things we want, it should be good for at least 60 years.”

Linington said plant renovation has always been part of the discussions.

“It’s never been the main focus,” he said. “In the past, Freshwater hasn’t necessarily been willing to give that old building up. In the past, it was more like, OK, we have to find our own site, build our own building.”

There was concern raised at the April 6 meeting about mould in the existing plant.

Grabowski said that, according to an assessment, the mould is all superficial.

“If you strip it down to the bare shell, there wouldn’t be any mould issue because you’d be replacing all the tiles, paint, insulation,” he explained.

Some fishers disagreed, saying the mould would be very expensive to deal with.

“Mould is a huge issue in that building,” one said.

As a result, Linington said a vote on whether to renovate or build was delayed, pending a closer look at the mould concerns and other remediation issues.

An engineer will also do a better assessment of what it would actually cost to get the plant ready for rebuild.

“So we’re going to get the assessment done first,” said Linington. “We’ll have a better educated idea of what’s the best way to go.”

Stressing that it’s the fishers’ decision, Tom Colosimo, the regional superintendent with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, suggested there is a need to investigate the costs of a renovation.

While noting a new plant would cost from $1.9 million to $2.2 million, Colosimo said there is no good price on the renovation.

Linington said CanNor would be the main contributor to the project, while FFMC would provide the building and the land, and fishers would contribute $1 million.

The plant would then be owned by the fishers.

“I was pretty anxious that we were going to break ground this spring,” said Linington. “I still am hoping that we’ll be breaking ground or starting rebuild this spring. Having said that, things really take a long time sometimes.”