A spray park being constructed in Dryden this summer was originally offered to Fort Frances, but when negotiations fell through, the project moved to the neighbouring municipality. However, according to Beyak Automotive Group president Nick Beyak, the door to Fort Frances hasn’t closed for good.
Beyak announced the $230,000 Dryden splash pad project in a press release on April 11, stating the plan had been in the works with that community for roughly a month. However, Beyak had first approached Fort Frances administration with the offer, on the suggestion of his Fort Frances staff.
Fort Frances CAO Faisal Anwar confirmed that talks had been taking place with Beyak Automotive Group as early as February 9. Meetings continued until March 1, discussing design options and pricing.
“Administration did all the legwork and put together a preliminary proposal for the construction of a pad through one of the vendors along with the work and cost associated with servicing of the pad,” Anwar wrote in a letter to Councillors, to explain the timeline of the negotiations. Judson had requested the explanation, because members of council were unaware of the Fort Frances proposal, until it was revealed in a CKDR interview on April 19.
As negotiations continued, Beyak Automotive Group requested to present the proposal to Council in a closed meeting, noted Anwar in his letter to Council. However, because it didn’t qualify as a closed meeting item, that request was denied. A public presentation to Council was planned for March 14, but failed to take place; on March 21, Beyak Automotive informed the Town of its plan to withdraw from negotiations, according to Anwar’s letter.
Representatives from Beyak Automotive declined to provide a comment on the situation, but in a screenshot posted on Judson’s Twitter feed, a message attributed to Beyak expressed the opinion that Fort Frances’ splash pad hasn’t moved forward with either Beyak or other corporate donors, due to a perceived “dysfunction” and “toxic environment” in council and administration, with a suggestion that Judson may have played a role.
Judson denies the allegation, stating on Twitter, “Council did not have knowledge; staff was not uncooperative; and it is certainly not me who has made the Town of Fort Frances a ‘toxic environment’. In fact, I’ve been the only one who has been holding others accountable at times.”
Despite the end of negotiations, Anwar expressed pride in his staff’s performance.
“I appreciate administration’s hard work and time on this project, especially Manager of Operations and Facilities (Travis Rob) and his team,” he wrote.
This doesn’t spell the end of Beyak’s charitable works in Fort Frances. Other high profile projects by the company were the donation of a team bus to the Fort Frances Lakers, and the purchase of a permanent home for the Rainy Lake Gymnastics Academy. Beyak has left the door open for future investments.
“My commitment to investing in Fort Frances hasn’t changed,” Beyak wrote in a message to Councillor Douglas Judson, which Judson shared over Twitter. “Given this is an election year, I look forward to exploring future investments with a positive and cooperative council next year.”