Mayor delivers verbal update on town business, meetings

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

The mayor of Fort Frances has been busy advocating for the town both at home and across the province, making for a busy start to the calendar year.

At Monday night’s meeting of Fort Frances Town Council, mayor Andrew Hallikas delivered a pared-down verbal version of a substantial written report detailing some of the work and events he’s attended over the past few weeks.

The mayor began his report by reiterating his displeasure with the behaviours of some members of the public confronting town staff over decisions made at the administration and council level, similar to remarks he had made in previous weeks to media outlets like the Times and 93.1 The Border. He once more reminded the public that, while some disagreements are natural when it comes to decisions made by council, the appropriate forum to discuss those disagreements is directly with council members, not town staff.

“If members of the public disagree with the decision, it’s important that they voice their disagreement,” Hallikas said.

“It’s valuable to council to know what issues are disturbing the public. That’s all for the good. There comes a problem if the members of the public don’t voice their opinion to those who made the decision. It serves no purpose to voice disagreement or confront employees of the town of Fort Frances who had nothing to do with the decision making, and in fact are just going about their day doing their jobs.”

The mayor once more reminded the public that he and the rest of council are available through traditional mail, email and even deputations made directly to council during a meeting.

The mayor then delivered an update on the recent ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association) conference he attended in Toronto at the end of January along with councillor John McTaggart and town CAO Faisal Anwar. The mayor characterized the conference as “excellent,” and noted that while there were many educational panels they were able to attend while in Toronto, it also made for a good networking opportunity.

“I spoke with as many mayors and councillors of other communities as I could just to get a feel for what difficulties and problems they are facing in their communities and what types of solutions they’re coming up with,” the mayor said.

“That’s always invaluable. We’re not alone in the problems that we have in our community.”

The mayor noted he had been in contact with CN manager of public affairs for Ontario Daniel Salvatore in order to arrange a face-to-face meeting at the ROMA conference, at which Hallikas said they were able to discuss some of the issues he feels Fort Frances is facing in regards to rail lines through the community.

“I discussed the Rainier bridge with him because, officially, the town of Fort Frances hasn’t received any notification as to what’s happening there,” he said.

“They are definitely going to be building a new bridge, according to Daniel, but that’s still far off and there will be consultation with stakeholders. Of course, as always, I raised the issue of inadequate payment by CN in lieu of taxes. We agreed to disagree on that.”

Mayor Andrew Hallikas has been busy advancing Fort Frances concerns to multiple stakeholders.

However, the mayor shared that he brought up CN increasing its presence as a community partner in the region by stepping up to sponsor more events and projects, something he said Salvatore felt was worth discussing further and with his supervisors.

Another event the mayor relayed back to council was the recent announcement of significant funding for the proposed splash pad to be installed at the Legion park in the town’s west end. The announcement, made by Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford last week on behalf of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) will see nearly $500,000 committed to the renewal of the park and installation of the splash pad, something the mayor acknowledged would not have been possible without the hard work of community volunteers and town administrators.

“Although the contribution from the Northern Heritage Fund is greatly appreciated, it’s not going to cover the entire cost,” he said.

“I do want to make a point of thanking all of the businesses and residents of Fort Frances and the district that have made individual donations, giving what they could. It is community spirit that’s demonstrated by these generous folks and businesses that really make our community work. Just as a reminder, it’s thanks to donations from our residents that we built things like our community auditorium, the library, the second ice surface t the arena, and many improvements at La Verendrye hospital, among others.

Other items mentioned in the mayor’s report include:

  • a summary of the mayor’s first meeting this term of the Police Services Board, where a presentation was given by the Mobile Crisis Response Team
  • meetings with several individuals and businesses from Fort Frances on a myriad of topics and issues
  • a meeting with MPP Rickford and Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey at the Rendez-Vous on February 6, where both provincial representatives discussed the filling of the sitting judge position in Fort Frances

The full report provided by the mayor to council is available online at the town’s website as part of the agenda package for Monday night’s meeting.