District towns welcome 911 service

Most areas from La Vallee west to Lake of the Woods finally can dial 911 to receive emergency help.
People living in La Vallee, Emo, Chapple, Morley, Rainy River, Dawson, and Lake of the Woods townships, along with the Rainy River and Northwest Bay First Nations, previously had to dial one of three seven-digit numbers for the police, fire department, or ambulance.
That all changed Dec. 11—though not everyone in the area has access to 911.
“Unfortunately, in the western part of the district, there are still some pockets of people who are in unincorporated areas,” noted Fort Frances CAO Bill Naturkach.
“There are not a lot there but they’re still our friends and family.”
Telephone customers in the affected communities have to pay 23 cents per month for Bell Canada’s infrastructure. The municipalities will contribute to the phone answering service contract at Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc.
Fort Frances negotiated a new contract with Riverside for the increased volume in calls. This addition will extend the agreement for three years (it expires Dec. 31, 2004).
The contract amount increases by $2,500 per year to allow for the additional participants and these costs are distributed to the 911 partners by the number of phones annually.
Previously, these municipalities and First Nations had access to 911 only through wireless phones or the seven-digit numbers.
Fort Frances has contracts with other district communities and oversees the Riverside one.
“We supply the hardware and bill the local sites,” said Naturkach. “The logistics are almost impossible to have smaller towns operate their own systems.
“It just doesn’t make sense, especially since some of the new 911 users only have populations in the triple digits, or, in the case of the two First Nations on board, double-digit populations,” he noted.
Fort Frances will see a net reduction in the 2002 budget as a result of the new participants. The town will pay $27,5000 per year for 911.