Public meeting regarding future of lagoon property at tonight’s council meeting

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Tonight’s Fort Frances Town Council meeting will kick off with a public meeting regarding the future of the lagoon property in the north end of town.

According to the agenda for tonight’s meeting, one of the first items on the docket is a public meeting relating to Zoning By-Law Amendment B2-2022, which applies to 1229 Cornwall Avenue, locally known as the Lagoon property. According to documents filed by Mitch LePage, the general manager for BMI Group, the amendment was submitted by 2670568 Ontario Limited, a subsidiary of Riversedge Developments Inc., the current owners of the former Resolute mill property.

The plan presented by BMI Group is to adapt and re-zone the lagoon property to allow for industrial scale computing and a solar farm, among other additions. According to supplementary documents in the filing, large scale computing is defined as “the use of premises for the purpose of housing computer systems that collect, maintain, store and/or process data for profit.” It also highlight that typical uses for such outfits are cryptocurrency mining and data centres. The solar farm could be tied directly back into the town’s power supply, either providing additional power necessary for the intensive requirements for cryptocurrency, or generating a profit from the existing grid.

Continuing to pull from documents provided in the filing, it details that 70 jobs could be created in fort Frances during the operation phase, with even more during the construction phase. According to the filing, the centre plans to have 50,000 devices running for the operation, and one technician – and accompanying management team – is required for every 2000-3000 devices.

Also on the agenda for tonight’s meeting is a recommendation that the Town enter into an agreement with FoodCycle Science to undertake a 200-unit pilot project for an in-home food waste diversion program. At the council meeting on March 28, a representative of FoodCycle Science presented the project, noting that their devices – similar in size to a residential bread maker – help to reduce the amount of food waste going to the residential landfill. The resulting material from the recycling project is claimed to be useful for things like gardening or composting.

The 200 units in the pilot project will be subsidized by the town to be available to members of the public at a significant reduction from the manufacturers price of $500, which will in turn cost the town an estimated $25,000. the report from town Operations and Facilities manager Travis Rob says some details, like collecting the resulting waste from those who have no easy way to dispose of it, and sale of replacement filters, will still need to be worked out should council agree to embark upon the project.

Also of note in tonight’s meeting is the awarding of a project to rehabilitate the superstructure of the Portage Avenue Underpass to JML Construction of Thunder Bay. According to the agenda, the bridge was identified as in need of rehabilitation following a recent Ontario Structural Inspection Manual bi-annual inspection. JML Construction was one of two companies who responded to the RFP issued by the town in February 2022. The cost provided by the company is $48,400.00 and the town has included an additional $150,000 for extra costs associated with flagging or maintenance blocking costs associated related to CN rail activities on the bridge.

Also on tonight’s agenda are:

• a report approving the Fort Frances Senior Centre be made available for Special Occasion Permits

• a report recommending that council accept the withdrawal of the Emo-Devlin Church Group’s proposal to lease Sunny Cove Camp and begin the process to issue an RFP for a suitable operator

• a motion to appoint councillors to vacant executive committee positions

• a recommendation to award the reconstruction of Mowat Avenue to Bay City Contractors at an estimated cost of $2,098,981.78

The public meeting regarding the planned by-law changes to the lagoon property is item 3.2 in tonight’s Committee of the Whole, which is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. The meeting will mark the first time the public is allowed back in-person to a council meeting at the Civic Centre since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, though it will also continue to be available virtually as well via link on the town’s website.