With the town of Fort Frances continuing to be under emergency measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor June Caul and Town of Fort Frances CAO took a moment during last Monday’s council meeting to explain just what that means.
Prompted by a question from Councillor Doug Judson, who himself was passing on questions he said he has heard around the community, Mayor Caul explained that the emergency declaration is partly a matter of securing financial aid.
“The reason why we invoked the emergency measures rule right away to ensure we were able to get funding to help us through this time,” Mayor Caul said.
“[Also] to put us closer with those people who could let us know what needed to be done and what we were able to attain from there. In that way it helped the community to really be able to start locking down things and feeling a little bit more in control of what we would be able to manage as this pandemic carries out.”
In the Town of Fort Frances’ Municipal Emergency Plan the plan itself is described as “a tool to assist emergency personnel in their response to [emergency] situations” and notes that its aim is to “provide a set of generic action guidelines to increase the Town’s ability to efficiently and effectively deploy services and resources to protect the property and the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the Town of Fort Frances during emergency situations.”
The town made its emergency declaration on March 19, citing Public Health concerns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its press release announcing the emergency measures, the town noted that it was doing as much as it could to be proactive in having all available resources made available to fight the pandemic.
“With this stated, we continue to take actions on preparing our community for the fight against COVID-19,” the release said.
“The Town of Fort Frances is committed to taking all actions deemed necessary to protect the health & welfare of our residents and the general public. Which is why today The Town of Fort Frances has declared an emergency to the Province of Ontario due to Public Health Concerns.”
At last Monday’s meeting, Town of Fort Frances CAO Doug Brown also provided more insight on why the town makes emergency declarations.
“We have an emergency plan to protect the community during abnormal working conditions or operations and that’s what we’re under,” Brown said.
“This COVID virus situation is abnormal. We have to follow law and regulations that are passed by the provincial government and the federal government.”
The province has the Emergency Management & Civil Protection Act, which in turn enables municipalities like Fort Frances to enact certain measures under their own emergency plans. For the town, the Emergency Management & Civil Protection Act authorize several measures, including:
• the expenditure of monies associated with the formulation and implementation of the Plan
• the procedures to be taken for safety and/or evacuation of persons in an emergency area
• the establishment of committees and designation of employees to be responsible for reviewing the Plan, to train employees in their functions, and to implement the Plan during an emergency
• the authorization to obtain and distribute materials, equipment and supplies during an emergency
• the authorization to attend to other such matters as is considered necessary or advisable for the implementation of the Plan during an emergency.
One of the measures imposed by the province, which the Town has enforced, has been the closing of parks and playgrounds. One recent addition to those closures has been blockades set up at Pithers Point, which Brown took a moment to address at the meeting, noting it relates directly to the camper and trailer park situated in the area.
“That campground has to be shut down because when the provincial government forced us to shut down Point Park, we can’t control the way we do business up there,” Brown explained.
“I just want to make sure everyone is aware we run the park on an honour system, so people can come in seven days a week, 365 days a year when its open and we have no control who’s going in there, so the only way to control it was to shut down the roads. People can still go to the park and walk and don’t use apparatuses, that’s kind of the law.”
Brown noted the playground equipment has been taped off according to the measures enacted by the province, and that the Town will be monitoring the use of the Point going forward to ensure that physical distancing measures are being followed.
“If it gets where we see people swimming, we’re going to have to shut down the beach,” he warned.