Council approves site for new library

While the decision wasn’t unanimous, town council approved a report Monday night recommending a new library be built to the east of the Memorial Sports Centre.
Back on June 27, council had passed a resolution adopting the concept of a new library, referring the matter of the specific site to the Community Services executive committee, with input from the Planning and Development executive committee.
After due consideration, the Fort Frances Public Library board passed a resolution requesting that the Memorial Sports Centre property at the corner of Second Street East and Reid Avenue be designated as the future site for a new library here.
This resolution then was passed on to Community Services, which submitted the recommendation to council.
The recommendation passed by a vote of 4-2, with Couns. Tannis Drysdale, Todd Hamilton, Neil Kabel, and Rick Wiedenhoeft for it while Coun. John Albanese and Mayor Dan Onichuk against it.
Coun. Roy Avis did not attend the meeting.
“I have a really difficult time supporting that location for development,” Mayor Onichuk said Monday night.
He noted using that space to build a library not only would result in parking problems for the Memorial Sports Centre, but eliminate a space currently used for activities such as tennis, street hockey, and children’s summer activities.
As well, it would prevent the expansion of the Sportsplex portion of the Memorial Sports Centre, whether that be the pool or any other part of the building.
It also would stop any possible usage of the area for other sports and recreation activities that no one’s even thought of yet.
“We’ll have a sports and rec facility with no green space,” said the mayor. “We’re locking out space for the future.”
Mayor Onichuk also said he felt there was no rush to determine what this land should be used for.
“I think we should take the time and wait,” he remarked, saying who would have thought 10 years ago that there would be a skate park built to the north of the Memorial Sports Centre.
Community Services manager George Bell said he also had concerns about parking issues and the fact the pool could never be expanded with the library built there.
But he did note the town’s summer programs don’t use any of the “green space” left on that property, adding youngsters instead go to the Lions Park across the street or the East End Hall.
“It’s very common for libraries to be part of leisure facilities. Where you have member of a family using a pool, another using the library,” said Bell. “It’s probably the norm.”
He added a site for a new library has to be designated in the next couple of months so the library committee can start applying for government dollars and fundraising.
Arlene Georgeson, who represented the new library committee at Monday night’s council meeting, said they mulled over possible sites for well over a year and felt certain this was the right one.
“We realize there’s always opportunities for something to come around the corner, but we can’t wait any longer,” she remarked.
Georgeson also said a library is a “community service,” and with the current facility, it’s “becoming almost hazardous,” with handicap access remaining “a big concern.”
“When you say there’s no big rush, there is,” she stressed.
Georgeson agreed the committee needs an “optimum site selection” approved by the town before it can apply for any senior government funding—which, in turn, would save the town money.
“You have to start somewhere. We need your vote on this. We have to move forward,” she added. “We can ‘What if’ it to death. We need to go forward.”
“I’m a great supporter of the library,” said Coun. Albanese. “But don’t take away the last green space we have at the arena.”
Coun. Drysdale, who also sits on the library board, pointed out, however, that the “green space” left on the property to the east and northeast of the Memorial Sport Centre is “not a park,” but currently designated as a “parking lot.”
As far as the matter of the fate of the tennis courts, Coun. Wiedenhoeft said there has been discussions with the Rainy River District School Board about building new ones at the St. Francis Sportsfields in the west end of town.
While those talks are preliminary, Bell noted it’s possible four courts would be put there.
Since the town doesn’t need four courts for the public to use, but the high school would see students use all of them as part of its phys. ed. curriculum, it’s likely the town only would pay for one or two of the surfaces, not all four.
With all the planning and fundraising that needs to be done, Bell noted 2010 would be a realistic date to see a new library built here.