Council begins online meetings


Following several weeks of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Frances Town Council is set to resume its regular meetings tonight.

The meetings will be held in a modified format in order to observe the restrictions on gatherings, to limit the spread of COVID-19. Council will proceed as normal, with the Committee of the Whole meeting to be followed immediately by the regular Town Council meeting. However, the meetings will be held digitally via Microsoft Teams, as well as by conference call.

To view the public portion of meetings, the Teams link has been placed at the top of the agenda minutes for each meeting. Go to, under the Town heading, to find upcoming meetings.

Among the items to be discussed at the meetings tonight include a report from the town’s Administration & Finance Executive Committee regarding the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on some tax and bill payments in town.

According to the report, following the announcement on March 16 that the town would be closing its facilities due to COVID-19, some residents expressed concern over the ability to pay utility bills. The town offered several different methods to pay remotely, and according to the committee, the general trend for that month is on track with the previous year, indicating that “based on the timing of this bill cycle, COVID-19 did not have a significant effect on our customers’ ability to pay.” However, the report notes that the next cycle of bills will be due May 29 and the towns typical tax dates are July 31 and August 31.

The committee made the recommendation that final tax billing dates be changed to August 31 and Septeber 30 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that an amendment to By-law 16/06 be made to state that during an emergency declaration, Section 3.16 – Notice of Disconnection not be in force.

Also on the agenda for tonight’s meetings is a recommendation that the town sign on to the LAS Group Purchasing Program.

According to a report from Travis Rob, Manager of Operations and Facilities, the town has the ability to take advantage of Municipal Group Purchasing, a new initiative offered by LAS (Local Authority Service), which is a business service branch of the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO). The town has previously utilized LAS initiatives that range from natural gas procurement to sewer line warranty services. The new group purchasing initiative would allow for the town to save money on both capital purchases and operating items, as the LAS uses an open and competitive bid process to procure bulk purchasing discounts for municipal clients. One example of the savings possible through this initiative was given, where the price of a lawn tractor acquired through Municipal Group Purchasing was 18 percent off MSRP.

Rob notes that because Fort Frances is already an AMO member, the town will need to sign a letter of understanding with LAS, make an amendment to its procurement policy to cover group purchasing and prepare an authorizing by-law, each of which are given as recommendations for council in the report.

Additionally, the town will hear a recommendation from the Community Services Executive committee in regards to a request made by the Rainy Lake Gymnastics Academy presented to council at its last regular meeting on March 9.

At that meeting, council was presented a letter from the Gymnastics Academy asking the town to consider making the Academy the sole renters of the auditorium space at the Memorial Sports Centre, due to unexpected wear and tear of some of their equipment from a regular tear-down and set-up process. Currently the other regular renter of the space is the 908 Rainy Lake Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron.

The committee recommended that the town continue with the current agreement it has with the Rainy Lake Gymnastics Academy, and that the town work with both parties to come to a suitable compromise.

Tonight’s regular council meeting will follow the committee of the whole meeting, which gets underway at 5:30 p.m. Go to the town’s website for a link to the Microsoft Teams meeting.

According to the agenda, the public portion of the meeting will be followed by four in-camera items.

The first item is about personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees: Benefit Consideration.

The second item is regarding litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board: Property Matter.

The third item is about personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees: Committee Matters.

The final in-camera item is in regards to a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board: Central Avenue Property.

Other business on the agenda tonight includes:

  • receiving a request from B. Gustafson, Staff Advisory – Fort Frances High School Chem Free Grad re: Donation equivalent to the cost of rental fees for arena and auditorium for the FFHS Chem Free Grad Party – June 25, 2020
  • a report re: Changes to Municipal Accommodation Tax By-Law
  • a report re: 2019 Capital Financing
  • a report re: Ontario Regulation 284/09 – Budget Matters
  • a report re: Policy 2.5 – Facility Rental Agreement
  • a report re: Fort Frances Girls Minor Hockey (FFGMH) Tournament Ice
  • a by-law to amend By-Law 16/06, the Water System Management By-Law
  • a by-law designating and deeming a certain plan of subdivision, or part thereof, not to be a registered plan of subdivision. (814-820 Scott Street)
  • a by‑law to authorize the entering into of a lease agreement with Vianet for space on the municipal water tower