Council move may halt area services board proposal

Fort Frances council could be putting the brakes on the proposed Rainy River District Area Services Board by insisting on representation by population.
That’s the warning Rainy River Mayor Gord Armstrong, who chairs the working group putting together the proposal, relayed after hearing council here gave the go-ahead to the proposal–but only if certain changes were made.
And unless the Rainy River District Municipal Association comes up with a formula for representation based on population, the proposal as it stands now–with weighted representation–won’t have the district’s largest municipality behind it.
“What they’re going to do is kill the whole thing because they’re not going to get it,” Mayor Armstrong said yesterday. “If they’re wanting to control this whole thing, then they’re going to kill it.”
Under the current proposal, the Fort Frances rep will have three votes on the area services board, Atikokan two, and each other incorporated area one.
Each will have one representative on the board, to be appointed from its council.
The unincorporated areas will have three votes, and will have to elect their reps according to pre-set boundaries.
Mayor Armstrong explained this weighted representation gave the larger municipalities more say but also allowed the smaller townships a chance to give input.
But at a special meeting Monday night, Fort Frances council said that representation wasn’t good enough.
“We should have 30 percent of the representation if we’re going to have 30 percent of the bill,” reasoned Coun. Sharon Tibbs. “I think that’s fair.”
“If we have one-third of the population, we should have one-third of the vote,” agreed Coun. George Blanc. “This [weighted] formula gives us 17 percent of the vote.”
While the majority of council supports representation by population, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon said he felt three votes for Fort Frances on the board would be sufficient.
The proposal, which the RRDMA is hoping to send to the province by Oct. 3, describes a governance structure to be put in place by Jan. 1 to deliver district-wide services here.
The district board will have exclusive responsibility for assessment, home care, land ambulance, long-term care (Rainycrest Home for the Aged), Ontario Works, public health, and social housing.
It also may provide airports, economic development, emergency measures, fire protection, planning, police, Provincial Offences Act, and solid waste management non-exclusively.
If approved by the province, it is proposed that a transition board be established to deal with transitional issues. Once it receives endorsement from a majority of councils in the district, the proposal will be forwarded to the province.
In related news, town council also approved Nestor Falls being added to the board, which already includes Fort Frances, Rainy River, Alberton, Atikokan, Chapple, Morley, Dawson, Emo, La Vallee, Morson, McCrosson and Tovell, and the unincorporated areas.
As of yesterday, only Rainy River and Morley had submitted council resolutions in support of the proposal.