Challenging year

Reflecting back on 2005, Rainy River District once again saw its share of triumphs and obstacles, happy stories and sad ones, over the past 12 months. This time, however, as we get ready to turn the page to a fresh start on Sunday, many of the serious challenges this area faces will be just as pressing—if not moreso—in 2006.
There was good news, to be sure. Broadband was launched here in January, the Northwest Catholic District School Board gave its French Immersion program another one-year reprieve, and knee replacement surgery began being offered at La Verendrye hospital in September.
A site has been chosen for a new library and fundraising continues for museum renovations.
As well, two judges with the “Communities in Bloom” initiative visited our community in August, with Fort Frances later being awarded “four blooms” for its beautification efforts.
Also on the bright side, the situation is improving at Rainycrest, with admissions resuming in September, although what will happen once Riverside relinquishes its role as interim administrator this coming March.
Sadly, we lost Coun. Struchan Gilson, who passed away suddenly in August. After much debate by council, John Albanese, who was the first runner-up in the 2003 municipal election, was appointed to serve out the term.
The Thunder folded in June, and bus service to Winnipeg was axed earlier this fall.
Certainly, though, the following stories were among the top 10 of the year:
#10.—Residents were handed whopping hikes in their sewer and water rates in June, with more sure to be on the horizon.
#9.—Justice Alan Thomas McKay was sworn in here Dec. 7 as the first resident judge for Fort Frances in some 15 years.
#8.—The international bridge was put up for sale in November. Fort Frances and International Falls immediately teamed up to look at possibly purchasing it in hopes of keeping a lid on tolls—and perhaps eliminating them altogether sometime down the road.
#7.—Nuisance bears plagued Fort Frances this fall, with one sow having to be destroyed next to the MNR office on Scott Street. Then kids playing earlier this month discovered another one denning just behind Katelyn Drive.
#6.—The already struggling tourism industry was dealt a potentially fatal blow in April when the United States announced it will require all travellers, including American citizens, to have passports to enter the country by Jan. 1, 2008.
#5.—The completion of the Kiwanis skate park this fall was welcome news by many. On the downside, though, is the fact the committee still needs to raise $120,000 to cover the cost.
#4.—Council irked many residents with a decision in May not to replace a full-time firefighter, opting instead to bolster the volunteer corps. In related news, fire dispatch is being transferred to the Dryden Police Service.
#3.—The Phase IV renovation project at La Verendrye Hospital is nearing completion—fuelled by $1.5 million turned over by the Riverside Foundation for Health Care last month and a $100,000 donation from the Niznick family in September on behalf of their parents, Ed and Sadie.
#2.—The proposed sale of the Fort Frances Clinic to the Group Health Association of Sault Ste. Marie divided council—and the community—in October. Proponents say a new model is needed to attract doctors to Fort Frances while critics are skeptical of the Family Health Team concept.
#1.—The crisis facing the forest industry already has claimed, in this area alone, Abitibi-Consolidated’s mill in Kenora and a Weyerhauser paper machine in Dryden. With the mill here in the midst of a shutdown, the future of this industry is sure to remain the top story to begin 2006.

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