Fort Res man fights to keep family business

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

Fort Resolution (Dec 20/99) - The closure of the sawmill in Fort Resolution left dozens without work and at least one resident with his livelihood threatened.

Arthur Miersch owns Lirettes Trucking -- a family business that is now under the gun from creditors.

"I've worked this business for 30 years," Miersch said.

"I started into it with my father."

Miersch said on the mill manager's promise of four years of work, he borrowed heavily to purchase a fleet of trucks to haul logs for Great Slave Forest Products (GSFP).

"They knew that the mill was going to shut down and they went ahead and promised me four years work," he said.

"They told me that. The only problem is, I didn't get anything in writing," he said.

While he continues to do some trucking for the town to keep food on the table, he has fallen behind in payments on all the vehicles.

"I had four trucks running and I just lost one this morning ... they just repossessed it on me this morning," Miersch said.

"I paid $30,000 for it and I owed $13,000 on it and they came and took the darn thing this morning (Dec. 8)."

He lost most of his investment on another truck when insurance only covered part of his loss.

"The other one, it caught fire and burnt -- it's down south and I can't even sell it."

"I paid $62,000 for that one ... insurance gave me $17,000 for that. The picker I paid $40,000 for and can't even get $10,000 for it."

"This Dan Walton has really put me in a bind," Miersch continued.

"He came in here and screwed the town."

He says he's still owed nearly $17,000 for work his company performed for GSFP.

"I really took a beating on this and people are asking, 'What happened?'" Miersch said.

"I know what happened, an idiot came up here from down south, doesn't know nothing and figures he's going to change the way things work up here."

"It didn't work and it just left me and a lot of other people stuck," he added.

Miersch said the previous mill manager, Ingo Gutormson, was making the mill pay, but he was yanked from the post before results came in.

"(Gutormson) was getting things turned around and then this high technology guy (Dan Walton) comes up here from Drayton Valley and goes and bullshits the people into turning things around and it didn't work," he added.

"He tried to blame it on Donny Morin; well no way. Donny Morin did a lot for this town."

Despite his differences with Walton, because of the debt he'd incurred, he no longer had a choice but to stick it out at the mill.

"I told him right to his face, 'You're doing things all wrong here,'" he recalled. "He said, 'Do it my way, or get out.'"

"Well how can I get out, now that he's gotten me to finance all these trucks," he said.

Fred Koe, president of the NWT Development Corp. said the government has washed their hands clean of the sawmill and Miersch can't look to them for payment.

"It's not the government's responsibility, it's the responsibility of a company called Great Slave Lake Forest Products," Koe said.

"If there are outstanding debts, then the company has to consider all outstanding debts."

"If there is any money to pay them, then he'll probably get paid," he added.

"If their isn't, then other arrangements have to be made."

Former mill manager Dan Walton could not be reached for comment at press time.