Town eyes putting more info online

Duane Hicks

The Town of Fort Frances is looking to make all of its agendas and other documents easily accessible online in the future, with council agreeing Monday to include a suite of CivicWeb services provided by iCompass Technologies Inc. into the 2010 budget.
“iCompass Technologies has offered the town an opportunity to get in on the latest phase of electronic document management, preparation of agendas, and action tracking,” said Clerk Glenn Treftlin.
“The Meeting Management solution component of what they’re offering supports and streamlines the creation, approval, and distribution of agendas, minutes, and related actions,” he noted.
“Action tracking provides a capture and tracking of items such as staff reports, meeting decisions, correspondence, public records requests, contracts, resolutions, bylaws, public requests for service, strategic planning, events, and grants,” Treftlin added.
“FilePro, another element of what they are proposing, provides storage, search, and publishing capabilities of key documents, such as agendas, minutes, bylaws, reports, correspondence, manuals, and agreements,” he continued.
“And then there’s an opportunity to upgrade our web page using our own design,” Treftlin concluded. “They would refine it and make it a little more presentable and more navigable than what it currently is, all to our specifications.”
Treftlin said the suite of services is an opportunity for the town to take a stride towards meeting some of the provincial requirements due by January, 2011 with regard to accessibility to information.
“I just hope that council sees favour to supporting this proposal and moving ahead with this,” he remarked.
Coun. Sharon Tibbs said she felt the CivicWeb tools will mean greater accessibility and transparency for the public. It also will make it easier for the media to get materials, and not have to pay for photocopying costs.
The new system also is expected to save staff a considerable amount of time they spend preparing agendas before each and every meeting, noted Treftlin, adding iCompass has indicated it will save them one-quarter to half the time currently spent doing so.
At Monday’s council meeting, the Administration and Finance executive committee recommended council include the proposal from iCompass for civic web tools be included in the 2010 operating budget in the amount of $15,500, and that a decision be made with respect to the proposal prior to Feb. 17 in order to take advantage of the special rate (the normal price would be more than $24,000).
In other news, council agreed Monday to write-off Provincial Offences Act accounts receivable in the amount of $105,506.46 as per POA Write-Off Policy No. 1.13.
Treasurer Laurie Witherspoon explained that in November, 2008, the town passed a POA write-off policy and last year the town did its initial write-off, which was for a sum of uncollected POA fines—some of which dated back to the 1970s.
This most recent one was for uncollected fines in 2003.
“First of all, I wanted to say that although we are doing a write-off, it is for accounting purposes only,” Witherspoon stressed.
“POA fines are not absolved. They are for convicted offenders and they are still required to pay the fine,” she explained.
The $105,506.46 is the sum of 482 fines from 2003. These fines have gone through a series of internal and external collections, which proved unsuccessful.
Twenty-six fines were for $25 or less, and six fines were incurred by persons who are since deceased.
Coun. Paul Ryan said the town has hired a collection agency, but it is not always easy to catch up with some offenders, especially if the fines are old or the offenders move to another province.
Coun. Sharon Tibbs noted that through the POA office, the town is responsible for collecting fines not only in Fort Frances but through the entire district, including Treaty #3.
Also at Monday’s meeting, council:
•approved a purchase card expense claim for Mayor Roy Avis in the amount of $13.37 for a cellphone holder;
•approved a per diem claim for Coun. Sharon Tibbs in the amount of $60 (this is for attendance at a meeting of the Rainy River District Municipal Association in Devlin);
•referred a request from Union Gas for an easement on municipally-owned property near the intersection of Highway 11/71 and Colonization Road West to the Planning and Development executive committee for its recommendation;
•referred a request from J. Webb & Sons Inc. for purchase of the laneway between McKenzie and Portage Avenues, and the purchase of a small portion of land adjacent to 835 McKenzie Ave., to the Planning and Development executive committee for its recommendation;
•referred a letter from resident Randy House regarding the status of the sidewalk on the east side of the 900 block of Portage Avenue to the Operations and Facilities executive committee for its recommendation; and
•referred a series of requests from the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship Inc., in regards to this year’s tournament (July 18-24), to the Administration and Finance executive committee for its recommendation, with input from all of the other executive committees.