“We are quite surprised to see the level of enthusiasm,” said Stéphane Parisien, chief administrator for the United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR), during a phone interview October 30.
During its October 28 session, UCPR council received and reviewed nine letters of support for the project from municipalities throughout eastern and southern Ontario and also from the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus.
“A lot of the folks are seeing this as an innovative project,” said Parisien.
UCPR council gave the go-ahead in April this year for a proposal from its economic development department for a $36 million regional food hub development. The project, when completed, would include a slaughterhouse facility that meets federal standards for dealing with poultry, beef, pork, and other meats, a processing and packing plant for produce, and a cold storage depot to house the meat and produce for later shipment to regional and national wholesalers and retailers.
The plan is for a private-public partnership to develop the facility. Its main focus when it begins operation will be local produce and livestock with future expansion possible to accept produce and livestock shipped in from outside of the Prescott-Russell region.
A site for the facility has not been chosen yet. Earlier this year both Casselman and The Nation submitted proposed sites for the regional food hub but now, according to Parisien, several other Prescott-Russell municipalities have expressed interest in having the project in their areas.
The UCPR has hired the Ottawa engineering consultant firm, J.L. Richards & Associates Ltd., to evaluate the priority needs for any proposed site for the regional food hub. Parisien noted that the site must have easy access to natural gas and electricity connections and water and sewer services.
Parisien hopes to have an updated report on the project, including site recommendations, ready for UCPR council in either November or December.
“It cannot go beyond the end of the year,” Parisien said, adding that too long a delay for the project could hamper the UCPR’s chances of getting provincial and/or federal financial support for it.