Almost $100,000 is on its way to community groups and organizations to help them in their goal of supporting local children and families.
At Monday night’s town council meeting, Fort Frances Mayor June Caul announced the recipients of this year’s Moffat Family Fund, which flows from the Winnipeg Foundation. The money from the fund is designated to communities that used to be served by the Moffat family’s television cable service and is earmarked for programs that “advance the economic, social, physical and intellectual well-being of children and families in the community,” according to the town’s website.
Applications for this year’s funding opened in early March, just before the COVID-19 pandemic irrevocably altered the way most of the world functions, but apart from the deadline being extended to allow for more time to deal with applications during the pandemic, there was seemingly only one other impact the pandemic had on the funding.
“Please note that this year as a result of the COVID-19 uncertainties, the Winnipeg Foundation has announced that this year’s funding may be used over a two-year period,” Mayor Caul said at Monday’s meeting.
“The interim and final report must include details of financial expenditure supported by invoices and/or receipts. Failure to submit this final report in a timely manner will jeopardize future funding opportunities to your organization. The two-year extension for 2020 does not deter your organization from applying for funds in 2021 should the Winnipeg Foundation grant funding to Fort Frances again.”
In all, programs and organizations in Fort Frances saw $93,750 come from the Moffat Family Fund in 2020. Please see sidebar for a complete list of this year’s recipients.
Also at Monday night’s meeting, Councillor Rick Wiedenhoeft gave an update on the progress the doctor recruitment and retention committee has made over the past few months.
“Although haven’t had doctor recruitment or retention meeting for several months, our recruiter Todd Hamilton has been very busy,” Wiedenhoeft explained.
“We have secured four new family physicians during the COVID-19 pandemic, three in Fort Frances and one in emo. we have also secured two new family physician anesthetists who will both begin their practice here in Fort Frances starting in September 2021, a little over a year from now.”
Wiedenhoeft noted that the successes the committee has seen is the result of a lot of work and patience, pointing out recently arrived Dr. Saravana Balaraman as one of the successes of that work. Dr. Balaraman, along with the other unannounced doctors, will help to provide health care coverage for those who have lost their family doctors in recent years, or who might not have had one.
While the new doctors are not yet accepting new patients, Wiedenhoeft assured the public that it will only be a matter of time before that process begins.
“Watch for advertisements shortly regarding rostering for all of these doctors,” he said.
The Doctor Recruitment and Retention committee also works on keeping doctors in the area long-term, something the councillor said is a focus along with supporting locums that help to keep the emergency and general surgery departments running.
“It’s a good news story and more good news to come,” he said.
Councillor Doug Judson also brought forward some community concerns he has heard regarding the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) and the recent change they made to how they report cases of COVID-19 in the region.
“All the councils in the area received information from the Northwestern Health Unit last week regarding how they report COVID-19 cases within the region,” Judson said.
“The summary of that is essentially instead of getting information of a case being within and individual municipality, the municipalities have been grouped into larger regions, and the reasoning for that is under PHIPA, the health privacy legislation in Ontario, there was apparently concern about the groups of people we’re talking about in our municipalities not being big enough to have the information appropriately anonymized or in the technical term, ‘de-identified.’”
Judson said the concerns he’s heard are about how wide the region that Fort Frances is included in ranges, which stretches from Rainy River to Atikokan, and how that geographical distance makes it difficult to determine the proximity of new cases.
“I think most people intuitively would think that ‘I will make decisions based on risk and when risk is more approximate to me, closer to home, I make different types of decisions than when it’s maybe 240km away,’” he said.
“And that’s the case across the region, we see that Nestor Falls is not included in our region but Atikokan is, and I don’t know that the regions necessarily correspond to where people live.”
That said, Judson also said that he’d had the opportunity to speak with the chief medical officer of health, who assured him that there are ways for the health unit to keep track of more localized information.
“One thing that was shared with me is that there are tools that are available if there are concerns about an outbreak in a specific locations,” judson explained.
“For example if there was an outbreak at a specific event or retail location or something like that, they would be able to provide that localized communication, but also they are engaged in active contact tracing. So it is a complicated issue, certainly my preference would be that we have more localized information, I think there’s a lot of inequities in health in the north and this could quickly become another one if there was a situation.”
Judson concluded by expressing his hope that the mayors of local municipalities could bring these concerns to Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford.
Also at Monday night’s meeting, council:
• approved a report recommending the Administration & Finance Executive Committee to accept the gift of $11,500 which will be earmarked to the capital upgrades of the ‘Out of the Cold’ shelter via the RRDSSAB
• approved a report recommending the town not award tender for the Zoom Camera Inspection of Storm Sewers in 2020
•approved a report
• approved a report recommending George Armstrong Construction be awarded the tender for the reconstruction of King’s Highway from Pit Road #1 to Pit Road #2
• heard a presentation from the Fort Frances Public Library Technology Centre on their COVID-19 programming and work
• approved a by-law to approve an Engineering Services Agreement with Azimuth Environmental Consulting, Inc. awarded through a request for proposal process (Preparation of Long Range Waste Management Plan)
• approved a by-law to approve an agreement with Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario as represented by the Minister of Transportation for financing under the Dedicated Gas Tax Funds for Public Transportation Program