Government help offered to town

Duane Hicks

In light of last week’s grim news regarding the latest mill shutdown here, seniors levels of government have extended offers to help Fort Frances.
Geoff Gillon, with the Rainy River Future Development Corp., told council yesterday that Amie Dimatteo, director general of FedNor, has suggested the town submit projects costing $50,000 or less, which could get his direct approval.
Gillon said council needs to review what it has on its “wish list” of any small projects that could be sent on to FedNor.
If they’re under $50,000, they will get a quicker turnaround than if they cost more than that.
There also likely would be a Northern Ontario Heritage Fund component to the funding, added Gillon.
But unlike the usual funding arrangement, where a municipality has to pitch in one-third of the cost of a project, the municipal share would be “minor.”
Council agreed that a subcommittee should be formed for the purpose of determining which projects to apply for.
Gillon said he feels the projects should be applied for sooner than later, with the idea being they would “hopefully help put some people to work somewhere and help the community present itself.”
“We’re prepared to write the proposals and get them in,” he added.
“That’s our job; that’s what we do.”
Local consultant Tannis Drysdale suggested the town consider projects such as new banners and welcome signs at the border, new street banners, website reconstruction to be aligned with the town’s new brand, or tourism product development (i.e., fixing the Point dock or improving campgrounds).
RRFDC chair George Emes said he feels the BIA “is there to help,” and would consider partnering with the town on projects.
Mayor Roy Avis said the update was good news, indeed.
“They’re small grants but they’re helpful,” he remarked.
Council now will brainstorm as to what economic development projects they should apply for.
“If there’s anybody in the community that has an idea economic development-wise, make sure they contact a councillor or myself,” Mayor Avis stressed.
Meanwhile, Mayor Avis said he was contacted last week by Natural Resources minister David Orazietti and Northern Development and Mines minister Michael Gravelle.
“They really opened up and said if [we] need any assistance or any help, they’re really available to help us,” the mayor noted.
“Actually, Minister Gravelle said he’d send a man in right away in order to get something going,” Mayor Avis added.
“I think that was premature because I think we have to get a shopping list together so that we know exactly the direction we’re going in.”
Still, Mayor Avis said he truly appreciated the calls from Orazietti and Gravelle, who were “very understanding and wanted to make sure we knew they would be there to support us.”
Mayor Avis said the help could include any number of things, including having someone coming here from the Northwest Training & Adjustment Board to meet with mill employees who have been served notice and now may be thinking of a new career path.