As word has wafted through the air like the fragrant smell of freshly cooked dog food, many Morinvillians are aware now that Champion Petfoods is now targeting the spring of 2012 for completion of the work necessary to bring the odour down by 80 per cent. As such, it looks like now ‘tis the winter of our discon-SCENT, if we may borrow from Shakespeare. Of course the Bard used the word discontent in his play and it is discontent that many residents have with Champion.
During the 2010 election, the odour problem was on every candidate’s mind as they answered questions. After the election then Deputy Mayor Paul Krauskopf told Champion to come back in January with something concrete. In January it was going to be done by August. In August it was going to be done by … well, it was going to be done. Now at the end of October we find our Halloween treat bags potentially filled with another five months or more of fishy smells instead of the candy kisses we expected our corporate neighbour to give us.
In fairness to Champion, converting a feed mill operation to a commercial kitchen is not as simple as flicking a switch and the company has committed a substantial chunk of change to clear the air. We respect that commitment but we would be naïve to accept that this is being done purely as an act of olfactory humanitarianism. Clearly the work at hand is in part to get the stink monkey off their backs, partly to be good corporate citizens, and partly to improve their production process to improve their bottom line.
Credit must be given to the company’s improved level of communication. We, along with members of the community, were critical of Champion’s lack of communication when the last deadline slipped past and called on Mr. Burdzy to provide monthly updates to the public and the media. One month and 13 days after that commitment, his company issued a detailed press release to the media and Mr. Burdzy made time that day to speak to us all.
The job at hand is a big one for Champion as each nut, bolt and seam is sealed to prevent escaping air and odour, but what remains unsealed in the minds of many is the tight jar of patience many have had with a company that keeps promising to get the job done and a council that keeps letting them extend that job without recourse.
At a council meeting in September, Mr. Burdzy said he’d put pressure and expectations on his suppliers to get things moving. Now ‘tis the winter of our discontent, and it is perhaps time we put pressure on council to put pressure on Champion.
We appreciate that with each tightened bolt, with each erected wall, the smell will diminish as the work unfolds. But what is noticed in a molecule meter may not be noticed as we all stand on 100 Avenue trying to enjoy a parade.
Morinville Town Council previously committed to a $60,000 tax break to the plant, to be broken down over five years. Although that tax break was withheld when the original project failed to cut the odour, perhaps the time has come to take it off the table completely. For many people in this community, the year-and-a-half of wafting aromas and waffling hopes has been taxing enough. To reward the company $12,000 a year in tax breaks at some future point when and if the job is finally done seems like a slap in the face to those who have held their patience and their noses with equal effort.