Council to provide direction for future of Sunny Cove Camp

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

The Town of Fort Frances could be set to take significant steps in keeping the Sunny Cove Camp property alive for future use at tonight’s council meeting.

Following renewed discussion on what is to be done with the property, located east of town limits but owned and formerly operated by the Town itself, a recommendation will be appearing in front of council tonight that will set terms for the town to continue to upkeep, operate and potentially even expand upon the use of the property in the future.

In an administrative report prepared by interim CAO Travis Rob, town administration is recommending that council approve a process to begin applying for Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation grants in order to begin critical renovation work on Russell Hall as soon as possible in order to keep the building from ruin.

“There is a lot of work needed at this site, but the most critical is with Russell Hall,” Rob wrote in his report.

“The work is not something that can be completed quickly. It will take time and specialized tradespersons to complete the work. Russell Hall is suffering from substantial rot in the bottom two courses of logs with the third course being heavily infested with insects, meaning that the rot may be set into that course as well. The foundation, particularly on the north side is failing, the windows and doors are rotting out of the wall and the decks/ramps are rotting away as well.”

The building will also need to be lifted to replace the existing foundation, and many of the exterior features will need to be inspected, and repaired or replaced as the situation warrants.

Rob noted that without Russell Hall, many of the options available for the property become “substantially limited,” as it is home to the site’s kitchen facilities and several of the washrooms.

Once the town receives funding, the report recommends an RFP be issued for completion of the design work for repairs and renovations, and furthermore that the town approve unbudgeted Capital Expenditure related to the completion of that work.

Rob stated that the site could be operational again by 2024 in a best-case scenario, but the property will also need to be appropriately cared for in the interim.

“In the fall of 2022 substantial funds were spent with a crew from Parks and Cemeteries at the site undertaking a large scale clean up in order for the site to be ready for spring 2023 regardless of who would have been operating it,” Rob wrote.

“Given that the town is not planning to operate the camp this season and given that the Town will retain ownership, suitable funds need to be expended to suitably care for the site so that it does not fall into a state to again require substantial effort to clean. Administration is proposing bringing the Camp Caretaker position back in a reduced capacity to take care of the basic care and maintenance of the property for the 2023 year at an unbudgeted cost of approximately $11,000.00.”

The report also recommends that discussions be had with the Kiwanis Club in order to determine if some of the restrictions that were agreed upon when the town took over the property in 2009 can be removed in order to allow the town to look into allowing more uses for the property in the future.

However, Rob noted that even if the Town were to look into redeveloping some parts of Sunny Cove Camp in the future, other areas of the town in line for redevelopment would likely take priority.

“Given the plans for the redevelopment of the former wood yard, administration suggests that the money to redevelop the Sunny Cove property is better used for the redevelopment of the wood yard where the Town can realize taxation assessment growth, job creation, and related economic benefits,” he wrote.

“In the future, when the wood yard project is complete, then there may still be the opportunity to look at the redevelopment of Sunny Cove, but the current issues there need addressing now to ensure safe operations in the short term.”

Even with these recommendations, the report allows that council may not agree with this process, at which point its options would likely be to divest itself from the property, wait until the passing of the 2024 Capital and Operations Budget to do any work, or to begin design work and construction this year totally unbudgeted.

Other items on tonight’s agenda include:

  • a delegation from BDO Canada LLP on the Town of Fort Frances 2022 Audited Financial Statements,
  • the final report from KPMG Canada on the governance review performed for the town, as well as recommendations for implementation
  • awarding the development of a new corporate strategic plan for the town for the years 2023 – 2027 to KPMG Canada
  • a recommendation to support Hallett Brewing’s Manufacturer’s Limited License Sales application to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
  • a list of assorted requests from the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship organizing committee regarding planning and set-up of the tournament

Tonight’s council and administration meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Fort Frances Civic Centre. The meeting is open to in-person attendees, and a link to the virtual livestream is available on the Town of Fort Frances website.