No decision anytime soon on old hotel

Duane Hicks

Town council will hold off doing anything about the vacant Rainy Lake Hotel until a local task force makes its recommendation.
In a report received by council at its budget meeting Monday, Chief Building Official Rick Hallam noted that while the sale, remediation, and restoration of the building may be an option, it has not gleaned much interest so far.
As such, he recommended the “best option moving forward is full demolition and site reclamation.”
Hallam added it’s an opinion supported and shared by many, including those who have had the opportunity to enter the structure and “see first-hand the extreme deterioration of this building.”
Hallam engaged Finn Way General Contractors, in concert with Keating Insulation and Wildwood Contracting, to attend the site.
They noted the cost of demolishing the aged building is about $995,000 (plus HST), not including landfill tipping fees, the fill required to restore the site to grade, service disconnects, and other extras.
Hallam added that prior to any demolition, the building would have to be abated of hazardous materials (in this case, asbestos, mold, and mildew).
This is included in the $995,000 price tag.
But Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig reminded council a task force of area stakeholders, including the BIA, is still looking at the Rainy Lake Hotel and that group will be ready to make a recommendation in the near future.
“As you are aware, the BIA came forward to council and said they have a plan for what that property could be used for in the future, a kind of gathering place,” he recalled.
“They have money that they would be willing to contribute to it.”
McCaig, who is part of the task force, said the group has brainstormed the matter and found the need to consult with other stakeholders located outside of the downtown area.
“You will probably get a recommendation from this group in the near future,” he added.
“I don’t think we can make any decisions right now,” agreed Coun. Andrew Hallikas.
“First of all, we don’t own it,” he noted. “But I am really supportive of these stakeholders getting together.
“I’d like to wait until we’ve heard from all of these stakeholders, when they’ve come to some kind of consensus, and then we can weigh in,” Coun. Hallikas reasoned.
Mayor Roy Avis said he doesn’t see the fate of the old hotel playing into the town’s budget considerations for at least another year or two.
Travis Rob, the town’s sustainability intern, has looked into possible funding for the redevelopment of the Rainy Lake Hotel, and cited the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Fund as a potential source.
But Hallam said it does not appear that there are funds available strictly to help pay for the demolition of the structure.
The building was put up for tax sale last January but no one submitted an offer.
The town currently does not own the property, but has until February, 2013 to vest it (i.e., take ownership).
If it doesn’t do anything by then, the town will have to apply to start the tax sale process over again.
Currently, $200,000 in taxes is owing on the property.
The town could write-off the taxes owing and again advertise it for sale.
But if the taxes are written off, the buyer still would be responsible for paying liens against it.