Sean Poggemoeller wants to be able to sleep at night.
The vice-president of North Enderby Timber doesn’t want to have to tell his 135 employees that their jobs are gone because the company can’t expand its mill operation which, he said, it needs and wants to do to sustain long-term, secure, full-time jobs in Enderby.
Poggemoeller was speaking to the Regional District of North Okanagan board at a public hearing Wednesday on his company’s expansion application which they first brought to the board’s attention in 2012.
RDNO directors unanimously gave third reading of NET’s bylaw amendment application.
“We have run since 2008 at a break-even point just to keep the community going,” said Poggemoeller. “There is no other employer in Enderby that will take 70 jobs (if the mill work force was cut in half). One or two, yes, but 70 is not going to happen anytime soon.
“I’ve worked for 20 years beside my fellow employees doing their exact job. A lot of them are my friends. I don’t want to be the one to tell them you don’t have a job tomorrow…We can’t compete against other sawmills worldwide because we don’t have the space. We can’t operate without that space (applying for).”
NET wants to change the land use designation of a 4.9 hectare portion of its 39.2 hectare property on Highway 97A from agricultural to industrial, and change the zoning of the same portion of the property from large holdings to general industrial.
The application also proposes to change the official community plan land use designation of a 4.9 hectare portion of an 8.1 hectare property located at 91 Crandlemire Road from industrial to agricultural, and change the zoning of that property from general industrial to large holding.
If the application is fully approved, NET plans to subdivide the rezoned portion of its Highway 97A property and use it as a log and lumber storage yard, install a new dry kiln, machine shop and weight scale.
The Crandlemire Road property would be subdivided and rehabilitated to be used for agricultural purposes.
Poggemoeller said he already had to face the 135 employees once this year and tell them he didn’t know there would be seven days of no work because, for one of the rare times in the company’s 30-year history, they ran out of logs.
“If we had the new location, this problem could have been dealt with,” said Poggemoeller, adding in the past 15 years, there hadn’t been a shutdown save for one day due to lack of logs.
“We have to have a larger log storage capability. It’s an absolute must.”
Poggemoeller said the company’s application has received complete approval from the Agricultural Land Commission.
A number of people spoke in support of the company application, including Ted Curtis, owner-operator of Armstrong-based Curtis Farms, a feed lot that looks after 5,000 to 6,000 head of cattle per year, and uses shavings from NET as bedding for its cattle.
“NET is just tremendous and we’ve worked with them for many years,” said Curtis. “Without them, we’d probably be out of business.”
Rob Smailes, general manager of planning and building for RDNO, read seven letters from neighbours adjacent to the NET property. Six were in opposition, one was in support of the application.
Those opposed cited concerns over water quality and pollution of the Shuswap River, noise levels, fires at the mill, reclamation and rehabilitation of the Crandlemire property, increased truck traffic and sawdust becoming airborne.
Now that third reading has passed, all that’s left before final adoption is ministry of transportation approval.