For­tune con­tin­ued ‘turn­ing the page’in 2009, says mayor

The Southern Gazette - - NEWS - BY PAUL HER­RIDGE

Three-time For­tune Mayor Charles Pen­well sug­gested 2009 rep­re­sented a con­tin­ued “turn­ing of the page” of sorts for his town.

Af­ter strug­gling might­ily fol­low­ing the de­ba­cle that was the demise of Fish­ery Prod­ucts In­ter­na­tional, and its run in the com­mu­nity dur­ing the mid­dle of the decade, Mr. Pen­well in­di­cated the sit­u­a­tion fi­nally seems to be point­ing in an up­ward di­rec­tion.

The Mayor, who has been a mem­ber of the coun­cil in For­tune since the mid-1980s, again took the mayor’s chair fol­low­ing last fall’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions. He sees the year ahead as an op­por­tu­nity to build on the pos­i­tives.

“ The town is sort of sta­bi­lized in terms of the out­mi­gra­tion. There’s peo­ple com­ing back to the area and we’re see­ing more of the young peo­ple ei­ther stay­ing around or re­turn­ing. So, that’s nice to see.

“In terms of hous­ing, cer­tainly we’ve seen more new hous­ing starts in 2009 and, again, planned houses for 2010, than we’ve seen in per­haps eight or 10 years in For­tune. So, that’s an ex­treme pos­i­tive.”

Of course, 2009 was far from a per­fect year.

The fish­ery is still the ma­jor eco- nomic driver in For­tune and the in­dus­try took a beat­ing dur­ing the last 12 months.

Fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Fish­ery Prod­ucts, Ocean Choice In­ter­nat iona l de­cided to open up a salt fish pro­cess­ing op­er­a­tion at the fa­cil­ity in 2008, which was do­ing quite well un­til around mid-2009, when it hit a bit of a bump in the road thanks to the past year’s harsh global econ­omy.

Still, the mayor in­di­cated the com­pany was able to per­se­vere though the year. He said coun­cil is hop­ing and ex­pect­ing a bet­ter year for the fish­ery in 2010.

From a mu­nic­i­pal per­spec­tive, Mr. Pen­well in­di­cated the town was suc­cess­ful in its ap­pli­ca­tion to make in­fra­struc­ture up­grades for the Pinch­marsh Road area. They had ini­tially planned to be­gin the project last fall, but de­lays mean the work will start this spring.

“ We’re looking for­ward to that for next year and hope­fully to get ap­proval to do wa­ter, sewer and pave­ment on a cou­ple other streets, as well.”

On the tourism side, the mayor noted the For­tune Head In­ter­pre­ta­tion Cen­tre and Eco­log­i­cal Re­serve have man­aged to cap­ture some of the tourist mar­ket, head­ing for the French is­lands of St. Pierre and Miquelon.

He said the town is in the process of adding to the cen­tre, with hopes of part­ner­ing with the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to ex­pand ser­vices. He sug­gested a po­ten­tial ma­jor mar­ket­ing cam­paign through­out At­lantic Canada in 2010 is a pos­si­bil­ity.

“It’s our hope that will cer­tainly be a ma­jor ini­tia­tive for the town in 2010.”

Mean­while, Mr. Pen­well rec­og­nized the Town of For­tune, like many other ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties in the prov­ince, con­tin­ues to face the chal­lenges of an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion and the prob­lems of main­tain­ing and im­prov­ing ser­vices with a small tax base.

He noted, of course, 2009 will also be re­mem­bered for the dev­as­tat­ing Cougar he­li­copter crash. The air­craft, which was car­ry­ing work­ers to the off­shore oil field, went down last March.

Among the 17 vic­tims were For­tune na­tives Burch Nash and Wade Drake. Robert Decker of St. John’s was the crash’s sole sur­vivor.

“ That was a very tragic thing for ev­ery­body in­volved and par­tic­u­larly for the Town of For­tune.”

For­tune Mayor Charles Pen­well

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