Mayor pushes in-kind services for WHO

While a request for donated use of town facilities for the World Health Organization’s 11th-annual International Conference on Safe Communities was referred to the administration and finance committee for review at the March 25 council meeting, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon stressed at Monday night’s meeting that the town had better come up with an answer soon.
“I bring this back to you. I’ve been approached by several members of the WHO committee and we tabulated the costs of use of the buildings at $14,000,” he said before council.
“I think we’re throwing a curveball at them by saying we need $14,000,” he added.
Mayor Witherspoon noted that while the town has refused requests for other in-kind donations from clubs like the Border Skate Club recently, the international conference is a whole different ball game.
“We’re in the ball park with some significant players here. If we have to, let’s take this out of our budget. I don’t think we can buy advertising this good,” he argued.
Clerk Glen Treftlin reminded the mayor that the matter has been referred to the appropriate committee, and will be discussed there.
“I understand that,” replied Mayor Witherspoon. “But these people have to know now. People have been working hard on this for a long time and it’s coming up next month.”
“We asked for a budget from the committee, and said ‘When we receive that, we’ll sit down and talk,’” noted Coun. Deane Cunningham, who sits on the administration and finance committee.
“It’s an in-kind request but the dollar amount has an impact. A request like this should have come before, when we were in our budget process,” echoed Coun. Dave Bourgeault.
“Personally, I know a lot of the funding they’ve applied for is still open-ended. It’s coming through, but not necessarily in the magnitude they expected,” said Mayor Witherspoon.
“If Tony Clement, or whoever the minister of health will be in the future, goes on television and mentions this conference, that will be the best advertising we could ever get.
“I don’t think we’ll realize the scope of what we’re hosting until it’s done,” he stressed.
Coun. Struchan Gilson noted the town may not have to donate the usage completely after looking at what organizers have budgeted for, and instead just cover any shortfalls.
Meanwhile, though the donations may not be in the amount of $14,000, district communities are getting ready to welcome the WHO conference with open arms.
Emo Reeve Russ Fortier said his township has donated use of the Emo-La Vallee Community Centre for May 8, where two sessions will be held simultaneously.
“We’re all looking forward to it. It’s our first chance in a long time to be seen on an international scope like this,” he remarked.
“Whatever it takes to make it happen, Emo will do it,” Reeve Fortier added.
Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown also confirmed his town would offer free use of the North Star Community School for conference workshops, as well as offering tours.
“We’re still firming plans up but we think this is fantastic,” said Mayor Brown, adding the approaching conference is still hard to believe.
“It’s a real opportunity to showcase the district and Atikokan. It’s in Hong Kong next year and that’s quite a leap from here,” he noted.
Rainy River also is welcoming the WHO conference with free use of its Legion Hall, as well as possibly another facility, while hosting four sessions on May 8.
“It’s certainly an opportunity to showcase what we’ve got,” said Mayor Glen Armstrong. “It’s a pretty high-profile event.”
Rainy River First Nations and Couchiching First Nation also are participating in the WHO conference.