DSSAB seeking funding for new location

The Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board is looking for a new home—and is hoping district municipalities will help out with the costs.
“This particular facility is not big enough,” Emo Reeve Russ Fortier, who chairs the local DSSAB, said of its current location at 206 Scott St. “We’ve got people farmed out in several locations now.”
The board passed a resolution at its regular monthly meeting last Thursday to “approach the municipalities to determine their ability and their willingness to finance all or a portion of new accommodations for the [Rainy River] DSSAB, including the terms of financing.”
There currently are about 21 staff members at DSSAB’s two-storey office, where they have been located since its inception in 1998.
Before that, the building was the home of the District Welfare Administration Board.
In those offices, the DSSAB manages the delivery of child care, social housing, land ambulance, and the Ontario Works program across the district.
While there generally are 21 staff at the office, that number can fluctuate when the board is assigned short-term projects from the province.
“When we can, we have [those] people work at home because there’s no room,” said DSSAB CAO Donna Dittaro.
Besides regular office space, the DSSAB requires special rooms for the safety and security of staff and clients.
“Most provincial programs require interview spaces,” Dittaro explained. “The province dictates what you must have.”
Due to the lack of space in the current building, the Ontario Works Resource Centre is located further east on Scott Street. Files and documents are stored in various locations, Dittaro noted.
Reeve Fortier, meanwhile, noted the board expects to hire about five more staff to help run the new “Best Start” program announced by the province earlier this year—putting space at an even higher premium.
He also said it likely would be less costly in the long-term for the DSSAB to own its own building rather than rent because it is tax-exempt, but added the board is open to discussion with district municipalities.
“We’re trying to find a solution,” he remarked.
Purchasing an office or building a new one would require a large amount of capital. “The DSSAB cannot borrow any money. Only the municipalities can do that,” Reeve Fortier noted.
Dittaro stressed the DSSAB is not asking municipalities to purchase a building for them, but to help the board finance a new location.
Because the DSSAB is run by a board of directors made up of representatives from each municipality and three unincorporated areas, any building purchased by the board would, in turn, be owned by those municipalities.
“It would be an asset to the municipalities,” she explained.
In other news, the DSSAB voted Thursday night to postpone any decision on cuts to land ambulance services “until such time as further provincial funding announcements are made or the 2006 land ambulance budget is finalized.”
The board is negotiating with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for a new funding formula for First Nations land ambulance services.
Due to the ongoing talks, the DSSAB agreed to maintain existing service levels.
The ministry provides the First Nations funding for calls on-reserve. The DSSAB does not receive the funding for First Nations people attended by paramedics off-reserve.
Local staff are arguing the province should recognize and fund land ambulance services for all First Nation people, whether they are picked up on a reserve or not.
Those negotiations continue—and will have an effect on whether the DSSAB will have to cut land ambulance services across the district.
“If we cut, it would be across the board equally,” Reeve Fortier said.
Last month, the DSSAB learned it would receive $24,442 to cover paramedic wage increases for 2005/06, representing a one percent increase.
The ministry has frozen its funding to cover a one percent increase in wages every year. In reality, paramedic wages across the province have increased dramatically since 2001.
Municipalities are paying the lion’s share of those increases.
The DSSAB also will receive $135,710 for Territories Without Municipal Organization (TWMO), also known as unorganized areas.