Council asked to buy into idea for ‘market square’

Duane Hicks

Council will start looking at whether the town should buy the old Rainy Lake Hotel and move ahead with partners to develop the property into a “market square.”
During a presentation by Rainy River Future Development Corp. consultant Tannis Drysdale at Monday night’s meeting, she noted the Rainy Lake Hotel Advisory Committee would like to see council do the following:
•Vest the property
The Rainy Lake Hotel currently is owned by an insolvent corporation, not the Town of Fort Frances. If the town vests the property, it assumes ownership and puts the property in its own name.
As of right now, there are no liens against the property that would become a liability to the town.
Municipal taxes would be written off while education taxes would be clawed back to the local public school board.
•Tender for up-to-date and accurate quotes for demolition.
•Apply for various senior government funding opportunities.
•Work with the BIA to create a “market square,” with vendor stalls, a stage, and public washrooms.
Drysdale noted while the committee and most stakeholders agreed the best use of the property would be for a private developer to come in, purchase, and fix it up, the poor condition of the building, and the fact it hasn’t been sold thus far, are clear indicators something else has to be done—namely, the town take ownership and work with partners to develop it into a market square.
Preliminary estimates put a $1.6-million price tag on the project, including $900,000 for demolition and $700,000 for site preparation, landscaping, and construction.
Ideally, the project could be paid for through a funding partnership consisting of FedNor and Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. grants, along with funds from the local BIA and town.
The local portion could include fundraising through the sale of bricks from the old hotel, for example, as well as possibly a low-interest loan to the town—through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund—to be applied towards demolition and environmental remediation.
Council will discuss the matter before making any decisions. It referred Drysdale’s report to the Administration and Finance executive committee for its recommendation, with input from all other committees.
The idea of demolishing the building, and replacing it with a market square, is based on a study the BIA had commissioned from consultants Hilderman, Thomas, Frank and Cram.
Also at Monday night’s meeting, council:
•accepted and approved the April, 2012 drinking water systems summary report, making it available to the public (no problems were reported);
•agreed to enter into an agreement with QMI-SAI Global to provide auditing services for the town’s drinking water quality management system over the next three years;
•approved a $2,341.37 increase in the capital budget to complete the change room renovation at the Memorial Sports Centre during the summer maintenance shutdown there;
•authorized Mayor Roy Avis to write a letter of support to Senior Retirees Against Pension and Elder Abuse (SRAPEA) with regards to private pension plans and a reduction in old age security;
•authorized a $100 donation to the RBC charity golf tournament to be held June 23 (the proceeds of this fundraiser will go to KidSport-Fort Frances this year);
•received a funding request from the Town of Atikokan for regional branding of a culturally-themed tourism route, and asked that the group be invited to make a presentation at an Economic Development Advisory Committee meeting to further discuss the proposed project; and
•approved a per diem claim submitted by Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft in the amount of $150 (this was to attend the hate crime workshop held here May 28).