Thunder Bay

Hornepayne mayor hopes help for struggling town will come soon

Nearly four months after the sawmill in Hornepayne shut down, there are still more questions than answers — and the community is now feeling the pinch of fewer paycheques.

'We have to be prepared to face the grim reality,' Hornepayne mayor says

Hornepayne Mayor Morley Forster says the community is asking the province for help. The town is close to $1 million in arrears for tax and water bill collection. (Jeff Walters/CBC)
What happens when the mill shuts down, and there's nowhere else to work? It's the situation Jeff Walters discovered in Hornepayne. We hear from him as he continues his stories from the road.

Nearly four months after the sawmill in Hornepayne, Ont., shut down, there are still more questions than answers — and the community is now feeling the pinch of fewer paycheques.

Hornepayne, about 500 km northeast of Thunder Bay, is home to about 1,000 people. When the sawmill closed unexpectedly late last year, CN became the major employer in the town. Now, the railroad is laying off workers too.

Hornepayne Mayor Morley Forster said many people aren't paying their taxes, or their water bills — and the town now has to deal with nearly $1 million in arrears.

Forster said people need to get ready for service cuts.

"[There will be] changes in snow removal. There'll be changes in availability of library. Whether or not the arena and curling club is available," he said.

"We're at the mercy of the pocketbook."

Forster said he knows of 19 families who have left town since the mill closed.

Bonnie Claveau, who owns the Home Hardware in Hornepayne, says her business is slowing down. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Hornepayne resident and business owner Bonnie Claveau said she's noticing a slowdown at her hardware store.

"It's a lot quieter. We're seeing some families that have been here for a very long time, have to move. Their homes aren't selling," she said.

Lack of information

The most frustrating thing is the lack of information about what's happening to the mill and co-generation plant, Claveau said.

The mill is shut down, but the co-gen plant is still going, using raw logs — normally used in the mill — and shredding them, on site, to burn for electricity. It's a reality that has left many in Hornepayne scratching their heads, saying they shouldn't be burning good wood for electricity.

The northern Ontario community of Hornepayne has roughly 1,000 residents. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

The co-generation plant is under creditor protection, and is slated to be sold this summer. Haavaldsrud Timber shows no sign of re-opening.

Forster said the community needs to accept the fact there is no guarantee the mill will re-start.

"The future would be a lot brighter if the co-gen sold, and if the mill was working at its full potential. But, until that happens, we have to be prepared to face the grim reality that it's not working," he said.

Forster noted they haven't heard anything from the owners of Becker Co-Gen or Haavaldsrud Timber.

The township is working with the province, and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to try and find some assistance, but Forster said that will take a while.

with files from Jeff Walters


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