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Contractors call foul at local log yard

Machinery blocks the entrance to the log sort yard on Keith Ave. on March 26. - Anna Killen
Machinery blocks the entrance to the log sort yard on Keith Ave. on March 26.
— image credit: Anna Killen

Piles of logs destined for export are laying stagnant in a recently-reopened log sort yard while the company that owns the logs sorts out a dispute with one of its contractors.

The contractor, Bryco Enterprises, blocked the entrances to the Yaorun Wood yard with heavy equipment last week to prevent Yaorun from moving any wood until the dispute was settled.

Yaorun leased the property from the city in Feburary for 10 years. It once served as the log yard for Skeena Cellulose.

The Chinese-owned company owns a number of timber sales in the northwest area, and has also done operations in Burns Lake.

Bryco was hired by Yaorun to clean and level the site which had become overgrown by young trees and all was going well until Yaorun declined to pay Bryco invoices.

In the meantime, city officials have confirmed that Yaorun is paying an agreed upon lease rate of $10,000 a month to use the 20-acre parcel on Keith Ave.

“The city has a lease agreement for land with this company that has provisions in place should the issue of non-payment arise,” added Terrace mayor Dave Pernarowski.

He did rule out any attempt at intervening to find a way to end the dispute.

“It's not the city's responsibility to be a mediator in any business dispute,” he said.

“I'm hopeful that the companies are able to continue operating their respective businesses at full capacity as soon as possible,” he said. “That would be the best scenario for our community.”

Meanwhile, a hand-made sign was put up earlier this week at the Ebony's Hidden Treasures store on Kalum Ave. warning contractors entering into business with the company that late payment or no payment could be expected.

Long-time forestry contractor Doug Suttis, who erected the sign in his wife's storefront window after working for Yaorun since the summer, said Yaorun risks burning its bridges in the close-knit forestry sector.

“The area drastically needs these projects, but at the same time we don't need people not paying,” he said, noting it causes a domino effect in the community when people aren't paid.

He says that while Yaorun eventually paid him enough money to pay his employees, the company still owes him tens of thousands of dollars.

“They told me to get a lawyer,” he said, noting current financial hardships make doing that nearly impossible.

Skeena MLA Robin Austin says similar situations involving larger parent companies and smaller subcontractors have played out in the northwest a number of times before.

“In this case what's new, and we don't want to discourage investment, is that quite a bit of the investment is coming from Asia. You can't go online and look up a history of the company like it's a B.C.-based company. When it's a company from far away there's no way to check as to the legitimacy of that business,” he said. “Those are difficulties that happen when you have a company that's coming from a country like China that doesn't have the same sort of transparency that we expect here in British Columbia.”

Austin is hopeful the new Woodworkers Lien Act, which was passed in the spring and comes into law April 1, will help protect contractors.

“Now when a subcontractor is not being paid, they will have the right to go and put a lien on the wood they've removed from the forest prior to it going off and generating money for the bigger companies up stream,” he said, noting that if the situation does not improve the government of the day will have to meet with smaller companies to see what else can be done by way of more regulations and resources.

As for the logs barricaded in by Bryco equipment, a forest service spokesperson confirmed forestry staff recently did an inspection of the Yaorun Wood site.

“Yaorun had not yet completed its paperwork,” said the spokesperson of its plans to export wood.

“Ministry staff educated Yaorun Wood staff about the necessary paperwork they would need to complete before they could export their logs, which includes making sure the correct timber marks are noted. Apparently the company has hired a local log broker to help them with this.”

Yaorun Wood officials were unavailable for comment at this time.

 

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