Council opts to finance clinic purchase

After almost two hours of heated debate Monday night, council decided the town will provide up to $1 million in financing over 15 years at zero percent interest to a non-profit corporation, under the direction of the Group Health Association, to purchase the Fort Frances Clinic and manage it.
In a vote of 5-2, Couns. Roy Avis, Tannis Drysdale, Todd Hamilton, Neil Kabel, and Rick Wiedenhoeft voted for the resolution, which was introduced by Coun. Hamilton, while Coun. John Albanese and Mayor Dan Onichuk voted against it.
After the meeting, Coun. Hamilton, who also sits on the local physician recruitment and retention committee, said he still stands by his resolution and felt it was important that council made a decision by meeting’s end.
“I’m very positive. I think it’s going to work out well,” he remarked. “We’ve gone through a lot of paralysis by analysis in the last few months, and the doctors have been very patient, supportive, and helpful.
He added if the resolution hadn’t been promptly passed, the process of getting a non-profit organization together and applying to the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care to develop a Family Health Team here could be set back six months to a year.
“I don’t think council, as a whole, disagreed with the concept, and they said that,” Coun. Hamilton noted. “But the wording of my document that we put together, there was probably some items in there that should be altered a bit.
“But we did our best, now we’re moving forward.” he added. “There still needs to be a legal document go through, but we’re not doing that—that’s why we have lawyers and administrators.
“But the principle’s there and we’re moving forward with it. I’m real happy.”
The next step is for council to take an executive role, Coun. Hamilton said.
“We’ll task our administrator, and Group Health will task their administrator, to get together, formulate the financing agreement, start laying out the framework for the non-profit corporation, which Group Health has said they’re going to do for us.
“And eventually, with respect to the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, we’ll have the Group Health Centre guiding our non-profit into a Family Health Team,” noted Coun. Hamilton.
“It’s a long and arduous process, but we’ll get there.”
But Mayor Onichuk said during Monday night’s meeting, and maintained afterwards, that he had reservations about the wording of the resolution, which stated the town would lend up to $1 million to the Group Health Association when, in fact, the money will be lent to a yet-to-be-formed non-profit corporation led by the GHA.
“I think it’s absolutely inappropriate. If we’re going to pass a resolution, it’s got to be accurate,” he argued. “It’s being rushed for no reason. And I don’t that it’s in the best interest of the people of the Town of Fort Frances.
“I don’t think there’s any question that anybody in this room, or in this community, would agree that the clinic model needs to be changed,” the mayor added. “I don’t think there’s any question that the formation of a Fort Frances community-based Family Health Team is an important thing for the future.
“This is about dollars and cents, that’s what it comes down to,” he stressed. “Rushing through a resolution with that recklessness is, quite frankly, scary.
“We just passed a resolution that said we’re going to give a charitable organization a million dollars with no conditions. It’s bizarre,” the mayor said.
“We still owe the people of Fort Frances an explanation of what’s gone on tonight,” Coun. Albanese said at Monday night’s meeting.
Prior to the vote, there was much discussion by all the councillors, local physicians Dr. Robert Algie, Dr. Elaine Spencer, and Dr. Jason Shack (who spoke in support of GHA), and local businessman Kim Metke (who previously has offered to purchase the clinic from the doctors).
As well, local residents Al Bedard, Nick Wihnan, Melissa Pearson, and Ken Perry also spoke—either in support of Metke’s offer to buy the clinic, or accusing council of already having made up its mind regarding GHA and not giving the public more opportunities for input.
In other business at Monday night’s meeting, council:
•received a presentation by Trish Law, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and computer preventative maintenance expert, regarding the GIS work done to date in the Town of Fort Frances;
•received a presentation by Mark Brooker of Atlis Geomatics regarding the proposed GIS mapping services project being considered for the town’s 2006 budget;
•passed a bylaw to amend Zoning Bylaw 8/98-BB (the purpose of the amendment is to permit a second primary dwelling on 1235 Idylwild Dr., which is owned by Alan Werenko);
•referred a request from Larry Syrovy (777604 Limited o/a Rainy Lake Hotel) regarding repealing Bylaw 56/90—Ontario Heritage Act designation to the Planning Advisory Committee for a recommendation;
•agreed to a request from the Fort Frances Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Day Committee to proclaim Nov. 16, 2005 as “GIS Day” in the Town of Fort Frances;
•referred a request from local artist Eric Keast for financial support of an art project of his he is creating which will be displayed in Minneapolis next spring to the Administration and Finance executive committee; and
•agreed to purchase a table of eight for the 10th-annual Chamber of Commerce business awards coming up this Saturday night (Oct. 29) at La Place Rendez-Vous.
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)