Safety to be improved for river swimmers

FORT FRANCES—While not recommending anyone swim off the docks along the upper Rainy River, the town will be installing buoys and ladders at the one at the end of First Street East in an effort to at least give swimmers a safer place to be.
Coun. Tannis Drysdale, chair of the Community Services executive committee, said during Monday night’s council meeting that while the town does not condone swimming there due to the danger of boat and plane traffic, the public continues to do so and something will be done.
“We decided, because no matter how much we discouraged them it was occurring, [that] the best solution going forward was to eliminate the risk of swimmers and boats colliding in one area along the waterway,” she noted.
This means the town will be installing a ladder and buoys at that dock to encourage those who may go swimming in the upper river to at least do it in that one spot where boat traffic cannot access the dock.
“We’re going to provide a safe area for [the public] to swim,” echoed Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft, who also sits on the Community Services executive committee.
The town also will post signage stating the riverfront docks are “unsupervised swimming areas,” and have a public education campaign in the spring educating parents and youths on the dangers of swimming in an unsafe environment.
Meanwhile, at Pither’s Point, the town will install a ladder at the government dock, as well as put in an emergency phone at the park office for the public to use in case of any accidents.
Community Services manager George Bell noted he didn’t know how quickly the town would be able to get the buoys and ladders installed.
While he said the town would try to do it soon, because there’s only a few more weeks of outdoor swimming weather left this year, they probably wouldn’t be put in until next spring.
Coun. Drysdale added the cost of getting the buoys and ladders could be bought using funds in this year’s budget, with only the installation cost having to be carried over into the 2007 budget.
Council also had Debbie Murray, senior lifeguard for the town and coach of the Cyclone swim team, on hand Monday night to share some information regarding swimming safety and the hazards of swimming in the river.
Council voted in favour of a report from the Community Service executive committee recommending the buoys, ladders, and signage.
Also at Monday night’s meeting, council:
•referred a request from Brenda Tullio for approval of a private parking space fronting 261 Scott. St. to the Operations and Facilities executive committee for its recommendation, with input from the Traffic Safety and Planning and Development executive committees;
•approved a report from treasurer Laurie Witherspoon to adjust taxes for property located at 280 Biddeson Ave. for the period of June 23-Dec. 31, 2006 (the reason for the request is a building there was demolished);
•passed a bylaw to amend Traffic Control Bylaw 10/03-G (to remove a handicap parking space from the 400 block of Scott St.);
•passed a bylaw to approve an agreement and agency appointment with Local Authorities Services Ltd. and ECNG Limited Partnership for purposes of a natural gas procurement program;
•passed Water System Management Bylaw 16/06;
•passed a bylaw to adopt a revised procurement of goods and services policy;
•passed a bylaw to approve an agreement with the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board for child care services under “Best Start” by the Fort Frances Children’s Complex; and
•referred a request from the 9-1-1 Ontario Advisory Board for financial assistance to the Administration and Finance executive committee for its recommendation.
(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)