Decision on DSSAB location deferred

The Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board has deferred a decision on what to do regarding a lack of office space after receiving a detailed cost analysis of its various options.
“We looked at a whole range of options—from purchase, to lease, to lease to purchase, short-term, long-term, all of those things,” noted CAO Donna Dittaro.
“We had an analysis done by a third party and then we did our own analysis, as well,” she added.
The board—made up of elected representatives from the various municipalities and unorganized areas in the district—opted to defer the decision until they could review the new information with their respective councils.
Currently, there are about 21 staff members at the DSSAB’s two-storey office in Fort Frances, where they manage the delivery of child care, social housing, land ambulance, and the “Ontario Works” program for the entire district.
But the number of staff can fluctuate when the DSSAB is assigned short-term projects from the province, or when new long-term ones such as “Best Start” are initiated.
Besides its main office at 206 Scott St., the DSSAB also is renting space for “Ontario Works” further east on Scott Street—and has files stored in other locations due to the lack of space.
Back in October, the board asked district municipalities to consider providing financing to the DSSAB in order to acquire a new facility.
The board later was informed by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing that municipalities cannot lend money to a DSSAB, so that idea was scrapped.
In the meantime, the Township of Atikokan and its mayor, Dennis Brown, who sits on the DSSAB, has come out strongly against purchasing or building new offices—citing several reasons.
One of those is that the board instead could move some of the jobs from Fort Frances to other communities in the district.
“Council understands this may not be the most cost-effective way of operating, but it would certainly help stimulate the economy in Atikokan and other communities where jobs are moved to,” the township wrote in a letter to Dittaro last month.
Emo Reeve Russ Fortier, who chairs the DSSAB, noted some services cannot be moved simply because the majority of people who access the services live in Fort Frances.
Atikokan also cited the steadily decreasing population of the district, as well as the prohibitive costs and the debt it would incur, as other reasons not to seek a new building.
The board is expected to make a decision at its next meeting Jan. 19.
In other news, the DSSAB received a letter from the Township of Chapple asking that it review its cost apportionment formula.
Dittaro noted the board would wait until June or July to comply with the request. “That’s when we get the new property assessment figures,” she explained.
The DSSAB currently bases its assessment on an average tax ratio. Chapple is asking the board to look at using the actual municipal class ratio.
“We haven’t gone through the formal process since 2001,” Dittaro noted.

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