NEWS Convent conversion touted as blessing for Hill

izens present could address council at the last regular session. However, some have already expressed their opposition to the plan. Concerns have included a rise in criminal activity to a drop in property values. Yet Mercier maintained that studies have shown that a rehab centre produces a net benefit for a host community. For every $1 spent on a recovery, $4 to $6 go into the community, he contended. “Studies show that overall, property values would in- crease, not decrease,” the planner said. Such a facility would help reduce criminal activity, since many offences are motivated by dependency, added Champagne. Champagne and Mercier assured town- ship council that no formal bid for a re- quired zoning change would be made until an information meeting is held later this month to provide more details on the pro- posed addiction treatment centre. The organization, which also operates a centre in Montebello, chose the Vankleek Hill site because “it offers a family environ- ment,” Champagne said.

The facility, which would accommodate up to 70 sober clients from Ontario at any given time, will be run according to strict government standards, he insisted. While the constantly monitored centre would be staffed by professionals, on a ratio of one staff member for every 11 clients, jobs would also be available for locals, said Mer- cier. Financed by donations from businesses, the foundation is determined to make the financial commitment required to make the centre a reality, Champagne affirmed. Estimating renovation costs at $300,000 to $500,000, Champagne commented:“We are HAWKESBURY | The key to the long-term stability of Montebello Packaging will be the development of new unique lines that nobody else can copy, says company pres- ident Betty Jean Pilon. While remaining optimistic that the Hawkesbury firm would rehire the approxi- mately 50 workers laid off two weeks ago, Pilon concedes that the company faces challenges from cheap imports and a slug- gish economy. “I have never seen this be- fore,” she said of the current climate. The maker of aluminum collapsible tubes for pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food and ink markers is determined to find new custom- ers, she said.“We have hiredmore sales peo- ple,” related Pilon, adding that the company is focusing on research and development to devise new products. About 45 production workers remain at the Aberdeen Street fac- tory, where another 40 people work in the company’s head office. The affected workers were already par-

willing to do whatever it takes.” The former convent had been the cen- tre of speculation since the summer, when rumours began circulating that the three- storey structure on Higginson Street would be converted into a drug and alcohol reha- bilitation centre. The future vocation of the site has been up in the air since owner Josée Tom aban- doned her bid in 2009 to convert the build- ing into a spa. She has been trying to sell the property for $1,250,000. Before its clos- ure in 2009, the convent had been used by the Soeurs de Sainte-Marie-de-Namur, an order that first came to town in 1886. ticipating in a job-sharing program. “We cannot compete with the cheap imports,” said the company president, relating that plants in India are turning out tubes for less than half the price of Montebello Packag- ing’s containers. The most recent cut in the workforce came when L’Oreal Cosmetics ended a contract with the local manufac- turer. “L’Oreal has gone with the Venezu- elans. That represents 35 million pieces, our longest production line. The reason was purely cost. The Venezuelans have lower la- bour and electricity costs and they get sub- sidies for aluminum.” A division of the Jim Pattison Group, Montebello Packaging also has operations in Lachine, Québec, as well as Virginia and Kentucky. Pilon refuted sug- gestions that the Hawkesbury plant was be- ing gradually downsized because of an ex- pansion of the company’s plant in Lebanon, Kentucky. The American operation special- izes in the production of aerosol cans, while the Hawkesbury plant produces collapsible tubes for a wide range of products.


VANKLEEK HILL | The conversion of the former Vankleek Hill convent into an addiction treatment centre would be a boon for the community. That assertion by La Fondation ange gardien representatives raised some eye- brows at a recent Champlain Township council meeting. But Daniel Champagne, general manager of the organization, and planner Pierre Mercier are confident con- cerns will be allayed once citizens have be- come more familiar with the plan. “We are not a jail; we are a treatment centre. We are not bringing in criminals. We want to be part of the community,” stressed Champagne as he and Mercier outlined the positive aspects of the pro- posed drug and alcohol rehabilitation cen- tre, earmarked for one of the oldest and most prominent buildings in town. Because of the format of the council meeting, none of the approximately 30 cit-

Montebello Packaging banks on new, unique lines


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