Council passes 2005 budget Aquanauts protesting pool fees

Fort Frances town council passed its 2005 budget last night, which means an overall 2.05 tax increase to property owners.
This levy increase amounts to a 2.75 percent hike for residential property owners. For those with property assessed at $100,000, this would mean a hike of about $48.07 to their tax bill.
The other tax increases include:
•5.42 percent for multi-residential;
•1.61 percent for commercial occupied;
•0.42 percent for commercial vacant;
•0.55 percent for industrial occupied/vacant;
•2.09 percent for pipelines; and
•2.75 percent for farmlands.
The budget is balanced at $19,544,724, and includes a revised user fee schedule, which while not too different from last year’s, includes a new fee structure for Day Care.
While not part of the budget per se, the water and sewer rates also are being reviewed by the town, and there will be a public meeting on June 16 at 7 p.m.
The town has retained a consultant t compete a review of the rates, specifically: how new provincial regulations will impact rates in the future; and what rates will be necessary to sustain and maintain the existing system, as well as provide for the replacement of aging infrastructure.
User fees
As is the case with every budget, the public was encouraged to attend last night’s meeting and give their input before council voted on it.
But the only group which spoke out was the Fort Frances Aquanauts Swim Team, represented by FFAST president John Dutton.
Dutton expressed concern over a significant increase in pool fees that are included in the 2005 user fee schedule.
In the 2004 user fee schedule, the town was going to increase the pool hourly rental fee from $30 to $60.
But due to pleas from local swim clubs, council instead opted to stagger the hike, increasing the rates 50 percent last year ($30 to $45 per hour) and another 50 percent this year ($45 to $60).
Still, Dutton noted the increase is “excessive and unfair.”
“If the latest $15 per hour fee hike comes to pass, our ability to maintain a competitive swim club in Fort Frances is in serious jeopardy. In fact, the Aquanauts will probably be forced to shut down,” Dutton said.
Dutton requested the town indefinitely freeze the hourly pool rate at $45, or in the very least spread the 100 percent increase over a five-year period instead of just two.
He also suggested energy efficiency measures to help the town save money at the pool, and thus be able to reduce fees.
Council ended up passing the new user fee schedule, but agreed to send the matter of pool rental fees back to the Community Services Executive Committee for reconsideration.
A recommendation from that committee will come back to council at a future meeting.
The new pool rental fees don’t kick in until July 1, and the Aquanaut swim season doesn’t start until September.
In other news at last night’s meeting, council:
•heard a presentation by museum curator Pam Hawley, representing the Museum and Cultural Centre Advisory Committee, regarding fundraising plans for museum renovations. Coun. Tannis Drysdale pledged $1,000 to the campaign at last night’s meeting to help get the ball rolling to this year’s $75,000 goal;
•referred a request from the local Police Services Board for support of its resolution regarding the installation of surveillance cameras on Scott Street to the Administration and Finance Executive Committee for recommendation;
•received, with appreciation for service, a letter of resignation from Dave Lovisa of the Fort Frances Economic Development Advisory Committee;
•referred a letter of concern from June Smith regarding a zoning application fee to the Planning and Development Executive Committee for referral;
•referred a request from Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown regarding use of the Town of Fort Frances as a host centre in the event of an evacuation to Fire Chief Steve Richardson;
•agreed to a request from Mary Martinson, co-ordinator of he Fort Frances Palliative Volunteer Program, to proclaim May 2-8 as “National Hospice Palliative care Week” in the Town of Fort Frances;
•referred a request from Laura Mills, Superintendent of Business for the Rainy River District School Board, regarding the disposition of surplus real property at 408 King’s Highway (Alexander MacKenzie School) to the Planning and Development Executive Committee for recommendation; and
•passed a bylaw to approve a contract for rehabilitation work on sanitary sewer, watermains, and sidewalks to Bay City Contractors Inc.