The municipality of Trinity Bay North feels it’s fast becoming a town forgotten.
On Monday, town councilors along with the mayor and town manager met to discuss the options available for economic development in the wake of their most recent hardship, the closure of Nutan Furs and the loss of 30 permanent positions.
The number one concern among those in attendance was the lack of effort, much less consideration, the provincial government has put into the town’s recovery since the collapse of its economy.
"All we are asking for is the same treatment as the last three towns who this sort of thing happened to, nothing else," town manager Darryl Johnson told the Packet.
Johnson said when Kruger Pulp and Paper pulled out of Corner Brooke, the natural resources minister and local MHA were in the town the following day to discuss options, whereas Port Union is yet to see a visit from the fisheries minister, but MHA Glen Little has spoken with the town.
"We've had our MHA here a few times and he's more concerned with who has bad feelings toward him," said deputy mayor Pauline Stagg.
According to Johnson, Little told the town it is not the government's job to keep fish plants open. To that, Johnson said, "it should be in the business of keeping towns open."
Slowing this process of moving forward is the questionable ownership of one of the town's greatest assets, the derelict fish plant which was operated by OCI until Dec. 2.
Johnson said that if the province is going to step in and help them move forward, the town must first admit the fish plant is no longer a part of the town's economic plans.
"What council in Newfoundland is going to support closing their plant, never to be opened again?" he asked.
The town feels that if they do admit defeat by washing their hands of the plant, the province will step in with a 14-week, make-work project. Then, it too will wash it’s hands of responsibility of the town.
Councillors also said they have tried on numerous occasions to arrange a meeting with the provincial government since the closure of the OCI plant, with the most encouraging results so far being a 30-minute meeting with Fisheries Minister Darin King in St. John's.
They were told to establish a ministerial task force and follow the proper procedures. That was January 11.
On Feb. 22 the town received a letter from the province indicating they were still listening but provided no tangible response to what council was looking for.
The loss of work in the town is a major blow to the economy, but secondary services will soon be affected as a result.
"We have 40 people on our fire department and this summer, at times, we will be lucky to have half a dozen people available," said Johnson, who added the town's fire chief, who was previously employed at Nutan, will be working out of a seal processing facility in Dildo and will be shouldering fewer responsibilities as a result.
NDP MHA and fisheries critic Christopher Mitchelmore was at the meeting to listen and share his own experiences similar to Port Union’s from his district, the Straits - White Bay North.
"I face a lot of the same problems in my own district. The smaller towns are struggling and they can't tap into every available resource. Towns can be so much more than what they are. It's a large percentage of the town (out of work). Government needs to see this as a serious matter."
He said not only is the loss of a strong corporate tax base a blow to the community, but if something can't be done to sustain employment in a region, the school is usually the next institution to go.
People in the area have already begun to worry about that.
Mitchelmore said he feels the town is handling the process well and should continue to try to meet with the necessary parties, then be open to all suggestions that may come from that.
However, he said councilors have a day-to-day job ensuring the town's services are available and that without some outside assistance it's going to be a tough road ahead.
"The town has enough responsibility with services that putting a small staff on economic development and job creation, they do not have that capacity."
He did however find one thing about the process perplexing.
"It seems questionable why the town would have to admit the plant can have nothing to do with fish processing (if they want support). If they're not willing to look at the structure, it sends up an awful lot of red flags. Why do they need that?"
In the end, councilors agreed to press the issue with government until a meeting can be arranged.