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Marathon shakes up economic development

North Shore town council takes hands-on approach to development
Town of Marathon

The Town of Marathon has restructured its economic development department, appointing Daryl Skworchinski as its new director.

These are expanded duties for Skworchinski, who will remain as the town’s chief administrative officer and town clerk. It’s also a familiar role.

Skworchinski previously served as the town’s economic development officer for seven years before briefly leaving to take a training job with Confederation College in Thunder Bay.

He was recruited back to the community on the north shore of Lake Superior when he was offered the top bureaucrat’s position.

Mayor Rick Dumas said the municipality wasn’t happy with the structure and reporting function of its economic development corporation. The corporation was governed by an all-volunteer board of directors overseeing the town’s economic development officer, who would report directly to town council and bypass the CAO.

“We were asking a volunteer board to supervise and monitor a paid employee, it didn’t work,” said Dumas.

The positions of the all-volunteer board are being dissolved. Town councillors will serve as the new directors.

The move was made during a strategic planning session on Dec.20 and announced on Jan.11.

The town also announced its searching for a new economic development officer (EDO).

“Through our strategic planning process we’ve given marching orders through Daryl, who now relays it to the new EDO," said Dumas.

Among the projects on the corporation’s plate is an ongoing struggle to gain ownership of the former pulp and paper mill site in Marathon’s harbour.

With the mill now demolished, the town wants to develop the brownfield property as an industrial park.

The property required extensive environmental cleanup due to continued industrial sewage spills into the harbour.

A portion of the property was transferred for a marina, but Dumas said it’s been a “nightmare” working with Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to acquire the rest of the property.

With the site in limbo, Dumas said it’s hampered their attempts to market the brownfield and re-purpose the site.

"We can’t do anything until we have ownership of the property, and that’s our main industrial property.

“We want to get this file resolved so we can go to the open market and have an industrial park available with the dock and rail system. We have (outside) interest but they’re not going to jump on anything until we get this environmental thing resolved.”

The municipality is also working with other North Shore communities on a project to bring liquefied natural gas to town.