Albert Gerow was re-elected as chief of the Burns Lake Band for a second two year term on Oct. 29, 2012. Gerow received 46 votes, while Ryan Tibbets received 33. Dan George was elected councillor with 46 votes while Ron Charlie tied with Wesley Sam at 36 votes each. Ron Charlie won the draw to break the tie and is the second band councillor with George. Cecilia Sam was also defeated with 35 votes.
Gerow’s previous mandate included the difficult times following the destruction of the Babine Forest Products mill on Jan. 20, 2012 as well as the uncertain negotiations leading up to the announcement that Hampton Affiliates would rebuild the mill on the condition that enough wood fibre would be available to justify the extra cost beyond what is covered by insurance.
Steve Zika, CEO Hampton Affiliates, credited Gerow with an influential visit to a board meeting in Oregon where Gerow’s presentation asking the board not to impose a ‘second tragedy’ on Burns Lake by not rebuilding the mill helped sway their decision to announce their intent to rebuild.
Gerow is now involved in the current negotiations for a new community forest license offered by the province as part of a timber supply assurance offered to Hampton last month. There will be a Dec. 3 meeting of the board of Hampton Affiliates were the final decision for or against the mill rebuild will be made.
“We’re looking at a new community forest license that would be joint with the village [of Burns Lake] and regional districts B and E,” said Gerow. “We’re very optimistic that well have everything in place for the Hampton board meeting.”
When asked if the new community forest would be committed to the new mill as part of a timber supply agreement with Hampton, Gerow said that it would not be. “The members of the new board that’s forming are very committed to the mill rebuild,” said Gerow, “but the license can’t say that as it would conflict with the U.S. softwood trade agreement.”
Gerow has been involved in other construction projects in Burns Lake. The demolition of the old Rainbow Motel on the west side of town was done so that a new 40 room motel could be built. “We’re very close finalizing things with our funding partners,” said Gerow. “We were hoping to start this fall, but we’ll have to plan for a spring launch.”
The Burns Lake Band was also able to negotiate a service agreement with the Village of Burns Lake under Gerow’s watch and gained an occupancy permit for the Gathering Place. “We can now conduct meetings, rent out the hall for annual general assemblies, weddings and training courses,” Gerow said. The band is working to further develop the Gathering Place with the addition of a commercial kitchen, which should be complete by the end of March, 2013.
Gerow wanted to make it clear that a lot of this economic and social activity was made collaboratively with the Village of Burns Lake, the Region District of Bulkley Nechako and School District 91.
Gerow’s past term also saw the reopening of the Little Angels daycare facility. “We’re at full capacity for infants and toddlers and near full capacity for four to five year olds,” said Gerow.