Mayor, councillor to lobby ministers on pressing issues
Local delegates will be meeting with several provincial cabinet ministers in Toronto next week to have a say on pressing issues.
Mayor Roy Avis and Coun. Ken Perry will meet with Transportation and Infrastructure minister Glen Murray on Monday morning to discuss winter maintenance of Highway 502, as well as the acquisition of the province-owned property located between the old library and clinic here.
The pair also will meet with Murray again early Tuesday to voice their ongoing concerns about re-establishing the “Connecting Link” funding program.
This fund once provided provincial dollars Fort Frances used to receive on an annual basis to do road projects connected to Highway 11 through town, such as the reconstruction of Central Avenue.
Without these funds, the town is being forced to pay to fix roads that are experiencing wear and tear largely due to non-local traffic passing through.
“We feel [‘Connecting Link’ funding] is a must for the community because of the truck traffic,” Mayor Avis said yesterday before departing for the annual Ontario Good Roads Association/Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference being held Feb. 23-26.
“We serve as the gateway to the north,” he noted. “I compare ourselves always to Windsor, the gateway in southern Ontario.
“We’re the gateway to Northern Ontario for all the small communities and we need support here,” Mayor Avis stressed.
Then Tuesday afternoon, the pair will meet with Natural Resources minister David Orazietti to express the town’s concerns about forest tenure reform and the allocation of wood from the Crossroute Forest—specifically whether the wood supply will remain local with the mill here idled.
They then will meet with Steven Del Duca, parliamentary assistant to Finance minister Charles Sousa, to discuss the recent property tax reassessments at the Resolute Forest Products mill here.
While the town worked with the company to establish new values during the reassessment process last year, it is expecting the mill’s value to drop more and more going forward, thus drastically affecting the town’s tax revenue.
The delegates will ask for some special consideration, special assistance funding, or any other means the province can provide in light of the dearth of tax revenue.
Finally, Mayor Avis and Coun. Perry will meet with Northern Development and Mines minister Michael Gravelle to discuss economic development and various local projects the town would like to see done.
After the announcement regarding the mill shutdown in mid-January, the town was contacted by senior government, telling them that funding is available to undertake projects that would stimulate the local economy or otherwise help the town.
OGRA/ROMA is an annual conference where local delegates not only can get information on municipal issues, but also network with other municipalities facing similar problems as Fort Frances.