Life frequently throws us a curve – unanticipated, unwanted, unexpected; in fact, we were really hoping and planning for quite the opposite. Seldom are we prepared for the bumps and bruises. Sound familiar?
It wasn’t but a few weeks ago that the news broke that Willow Creek mine would be undertaking a temporary, market-driven closure. The bad news was softened for me by my belief that most Willow Creek workers would be transferred to nearby Brule. Maybe a little inconvenient, but not exactly shattering. I asked for written confirmation. What I am about to share with you now is not nearly so pleasing as my first communication on Willow Creek.
From a total workforce of 485 in Willow Creek and Brule mines, 280 will remain once the seismic shifting and settling has concluded. About 130 of those who will lose their jobs are “considered” local. They are our people, paying rent and mortgages in our town, buying groceries and gas from our merchants, sending their kids to our schools, attending our gatherings, rejoicing with us when we are glad and cheering us when we are sad. They are our friends and neighbors, and though we each feel our own pain, it helps to know that others care.
I am sorry to have to write about these happenings; I wish it could be different. The mine is closing, at least the excavating component of the mine, and the event will become embedded as part of our community perspective; among other things, it will teach us compassion for others. Just words; just marks on paper for those whose jobs have blown away on the dusty winds of change.
I could assure you that this, too, will pass, and it will. I could say that Chetwynd will climb this mountain just like Chetwynd has always climbed its mountains, and we will. But you, who have just bought your house, or car, or who have just bought the tickets for a long-anticipated vacation, you’ll be wondering how to tell your kids, your spouses, your buddies.
What’s next? Is this the time to take another look at career options? Is your resume up to date? Will other personal decisions and plans now have to be revisited? What is the future of this town we love to call home?
Chetwynd has experienced events and circumstances in the past that have challenged us and forced us to evaluate more carefully our community vision. What decisions will Council take today that differ from decisions on the same issues that we would have taken two months ago? I like to think that there will be no knee-jerk shifts in policy or direction because of the Willow Creek closure and I am determined that Council will continue its sound fiscal practices. If anything, Council is likely to move even farther away from dependence on Fair Share funding. We love Fair Share; we need Fair Share; but we can’t allow Fair Share to become a crutch.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor