Council changes mind about deal on old Fort High

After first shooting down a bylaw to seal a deal between the Town of Fort Frances and Charlie Morken, Steve Both, and Russell Pollard to develop the old Fort High property on First Street East last Wednesday, council changed its mind when it voted on an amended agreement Friday afternoon.
“It’s essentially the same as the old agreement, but we’ve capped the amount the town is willing to spend,” said Coun. Neil Kabel, who voted in favour of the deal both in its original and amended forms.
The bylaw passed Friday will see the town allow up to $100,000 in municipal service costs, such as waived tipping fees, zoning and building permit fees, etc.
The developers have seven-and-a half years to complete the project, which consists of demolishing part of the old high school and renovating three remaining structures to lease out to clients.
Coun. Kabel admitted there also are tax breaks, but stressed these are not as overtly generous as have been rumoured on the street. The developers will have to pay one-third of the taxes the first year, two-thirds the next, and full taxes the third and every year thereafter.
“I believe this development to be an asset to the town, not a liability. I believe very much in it,” said Coun. Kabel. “We have to do something with that property.”
Council voted 6-1 in favour of developing the old property at a special committee of the whole meeting that was held in-camera (behind closed doors) at the Civic Centre on Friday.
Couns. Roy Avis, Dave Bourgeault, Deane Cunningham, Sharon Tibbs, Neil Kabel and Mayor Glenn Witherspoon voted for the deal while Coun. Struchan Gilson voted against it.
Couns. Avis, Bourgeault, Cunningham, and Gilson had voted against the deal on Wednesday afternoon while Couns. Sharon Tibbs and Kabel, along with Mayor Witherspoon, voted in favour of it.
This special meeting was called by Mayor Witherspoon on Friday. The committee of the whole met in-camera at 3 p.m. and as a result of those discussions, council then went into a special open meeting for a vote.
The total meeting time was about one hour.
While Coun. Kabel noted he felt “both sides are happy” with the new agreement, neither Morken, Both, nor Pollard were available for comment.
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)