The longer Hornepayne’s lumber mill remains idle, the greater the chance that tradespeople may be forced to leave the community, perhaps permanently, the town’s mayor fears.

“This is my biggest concern,” Morley Forster said Thursday.

“Skilled labour is in demand all over the country, so if you can find a good job somewhere else you just might have to take it.”

About 130 people were laid off in early December after Haavaldsrud Timber idled the mill over concerns over a power-supply contract for its 10-megawatt cogen plant.

The company has said it needs to improve the contract for the cogen, which supplies electricity to the province as well as steam-heat for drying lumber.

Last month, as Christmas loomed, the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator said it had no plans to change the existing 10-year contract.

It’s believed that Haavaldsrud is seeking to lengthen the contract to 20 years, which is not unusual for such plants.

The relationship between the lumber mill and the cogen, which is fuelled by the lumber mill’s wood waste, has been touted as the way all such facilities should be run.

In 2013, the province provided Haavaldsrud with $30 million in loans and loan guarantees so that the cogen could get up and running.

Haavaldsrud officials couldn’t be reached Friday for an update.

In the legislature last month, Energy Minister Bob Chiareli said Haavaldsrud is “asking for a higher purchase price, which will put pressure on (electricity) prices.”

“We're asking all the participates that are engaged in this to come up with a solution (and) we are optimistic that we will come up with a solution,” Chiareli added.

Forster said he’s been told that talks between the company and the province have been scheduled, but he hadn’t heard anything this week.

“They told me I’ll be among the first to know,” he said.

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