Local council shares updates and thanks

Ken Kellar

Fort Frances Town Council returned in a slightly new format Monday night to provide some updates on key committees in town, as well as to thank frontline workers who continue to do their jobs in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While a traditional meeting in the Civic Centre’s Council chamber was out of the question Monday night due to orders from several levels of government banning gatherings and closing down buildings, Mayor and council took to a teleconference in order to address the town’s agenda.

Mayor Caul started off the evening by thanking the people of Fort Frances for doing their best in uncertain times.

“We continue to live in difficult and scary times as we continue through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mayor Caul said.

“Today I want to remind you and stress the absolutely necessary need to be on guard for you own safety and health. Though Fort Frances has been fortunate to avoid this illness thus far, we must continue to be vigilant in self-isolating in our own homes with only those who live there on a day-to-day basis.”

The mayor acknowledged the difficulties involved in the safety measures that have been put in place in order to lessen the severity and impact of COVID-19, noting that it’s not easy or fun to not be able to see family and friends or to be facing unemployment and struggling with bills, but that these measures are helping to keep the town and everyone in it safe.

“I truly believe that because we were proactive to self-isolate, and then closed our public buildings and invoked emergency measures right away, we created a safe environment here,” she said.

“Please do not give up keeping your distance from others. Wash your hands with soap and water and use sanitizer on your hands. Please don’t encourage anyone you know to travel out of town unless it’s for work and don’t encourage travellers to visit from outside Fort Frances, because we won’t know if they have been completely safe and isolated from others.”

The mayor also thanked the people in Fort Frances who have been and continue to work on the front lines in the face of the pandemic, as well as members of the public who are helping others who might be more vulnerable or unable to do certain things on their own.

“I would like to thank all healthcare workers who tirelessly work to keep our public safe, our business owners who continue to provide necessary food and services, and our OPP and firefighters who are out there protecting all of us,” she said.

“Thank you to people who are picking up groceries for those who can’t get out, to those cooking and feeding those in need, and thank you to the Sleepy Owl and DSSAB providing accommodations for the homeless. I also thank our local emergency control team for leadership in ensuring the proper protocols are in place to protect everyone in our community.”

Councillor Wendy Brunetta also thanked the public and frontline workers as she addressed the Council, and provided updates from boards and committees that she sits on, including the Senior Centre, clinic and NWHU.

“I just wanted to let people know that the Fort Frances Senior Centre remains closed at this time, and hopefully once this is all over we’ll be able to open that up again soon,” she said.

“We have had a clinic board meeting… and even with the pandemic situation the board has been working to complete the transfer of the parking lot from town to the clinic, so that is almost complete and we’re really looking forward to that coming to fruition.”

Coun. Brunetta stressed that the nurse practitioners with the Fort Frances Family Health Team are continuing to work and are taking steps to ensure their safety and the safety of those who might need them.

“I just wanted to make the public aware that our three nurse practitioners continue to provide service,” she explained.

“Two of them are working from home, and then one is onsite and they rotate who is onsite. The two working from home are taking cellphone appointments, and if they determine from that appointment that the individual needs to be seen in person, then they will make an appointment for them to go into the clinic. When you go to clinic, whether it’s for an appointment or for wound care or for the lab, you will be screened and anyone with symptoms will not be allowed to enter the building.”

Brunetta thanked the Family Health Team’s executive director Gerri Yerxa for coordinating services and safety measures at the clinic and noted that Yerxa and her team are monitoring the COVID-19 situation “on a daily basis.”

The councillor also provided an update from the Northwestern Health Unit, noting she had sat in on a few of their teleconferences as well.

“Marilyn Herbacz, the president of the health unit board, and Dr. Kit Young Hoon, who is our medical officer of health, have provided updates on the COVID-19 situation in the NWHU catchment area,” Brunetta said.

“They’ve been very informative and again, it’s a really clear demonstration of how our front line healthcare is really working hard to keep all of our communities safe, so again, a big thank you to all of them.”

Coun. Mike Behan was the last of the members to provide an update at last nights council meeting, and noted that like many of the other councillors, many of his board and committee meetings, like the Rainy River District Municipal Association (RRDMA) and Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce, have been postponed or cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In other news, the Chamber’s annual Business and Community Expo, originally scheduled for April 24-25 at the Fort Frances Curling Club was postponed as well,” he said.

“There is no word yet if the Chamber will try to hold it in the fall instead.”

Coun. Behan also provided an update on the Fort Frances Public Library’s Board, explaining that their next meeting will take place via teleconfrerence this Wednesday at 3:30 p.m., and reminded the public that the applications for the Moffat Family Fund are still available.

“I’d like to remind everyone that the deadline for application to the Moffat Family Fund has been extended until Thursday, April 30 at 4:00 p.m.,” he said.

“The Moffat Fund is providing $93,750 in 2020, so I certainly encourage registered charities and/or affiliated organizations to apply for part of this funding. The primary goal of this funding is to support and advance the economic, social, physical and intellectual wellbeing of children and families. The steering committee will get together after that then to decide on which applications we forward on to the Moffat Fund in Winnipeg for their final decision.”

Coun. Behan also echoed the mayor and Coun. Brunetta in thanking the public for co-operating with COVID-19 measures and encouraged the public to keep it up.

“Thank you and please stay safe everyone,” he said.

“Please continue to adhere to all public health guidelines as we work through this crisis together.”