Town may cancel summer programs


It looks like summer programs in Fort Frances will become the latest casualty of COVID-19.
At tonight’s council meeting, Fort Frances town council will receive a report recommending that summer programs, usually offered through the Memorial Sports Centre, be cancelled this year.
According to the town’s manager of Recreation and Culture Aaron Bisson, while they saw plenty of interest in the programs, subsequent impacts of COVID-19 –along with restrictions from the provincial government– meant that they simply couldn’t proceed.
“This year we made some changes to the program and expanded our offers to be more user friendly for families and noticed great interest in the programs,” Bisson wrote in the report.
“Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 many things have changed in how we are able to operate and offer programming. Our Summer programs schedule to start on June 29, 2020 and run for eight weeks are well over 70% filled at this time and we had to stop registration due to COVID-19 less than a week into our sign up. Due to the fact the Province has indicated it will not allow overnight camps, that daycare facilities are not yet open to the general public, gatherings up to a maximum of 5 people, I cannot see how we are able to provide this service in 2020.”
The programs offer an alternative form of childcare for the families who enroll in them, and the offering of the programs have ranged from arts and crafts to sports to outdoor camping and canoeing. Another complicating factor in running the programs this year is that the employees who see day to day supervision of the programs are usually high school or university aged students, and Bisson wrote that he felt the added responsibilities of having them uphold COVID-19 restrictions could be “an unreasonable request.”
“I know a lot of families rely on this service for child care and an activity for their children over the summer months,” Bisson wrote.
“But with the uncertain times we find ourselves in I believe it best we contact the families and let them know we are unable to supply this service at this time.”
The report concludes that the town looks forward to being able to offer the programs in 2021 “under better circumstances.”
Another item on tonight’s agenda also involves a potential upgrade to the Memorial Sports Centre.
The town will receive a report from the Community Services Executive Committee regarding a grant process the committee is currently in the process of in regards to expanding the facilities at the sportsplex. At the stage they are currently at, the committee requires the Town to pass a resolution supporting the project if it is selected to be funded through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, as well as agree to cover any cost overruns the projects could encounter.
At its core, the committee explained in the report that the Memorial Sports Centre is simply not large enough to accommodate its user base, as well as potential customers it could be reaching through increasing program offerings and class sizes. Among improvements that could be made to the building are:
• creating larger/more accessible washrooms to become compliant with accessibility standards
• adding a family/accessible changeroom
• adding a dedicated fitness area to “capitalize on the trend of providing fitness classes”
• increasing the size of the cardio room for proper spacing of –and additional– equipment
• adding an exterior door to the gym area to allow for members to access the space outside of normal operating hours, similar to how other gym facilities operate
The report noted that it is important that the renovations be done in a way that impacts the pool as little as possible in order to avoid a four to six month shutdown that would negatively impact pool members.
The projected cost of the project is listed at $4,675,000 and no time frame for the project is listed in the report.
Also on the agenda tonight is the matter of the Owandem tug boat. A letter from Caren Fagerdahl of the Museum Advisory Board and Friends of the Museum explained that the tug boat had been stored for free by the individual who did the restoration work, but the loss of space is now interfering with his business, and so he is asking for payment should he need to continue storing it.
The letter continues that as the Owandem is a town asset, following its donation to the town by Arden Erickson Barnes, the museum is requesting the town move the boat to town property and store it until a final display location is created, which the board and Friends of the Museum believe should be next to the Hallet on the riverfront.
If approved, council will refer the letter to the Community Services Executive Committee for recommendation.
Tonight’s regular council meeting will follow the committee of the whole meeting, which gets underway at 5:30 p.m. Go to the town’s website for a link to the Microsoft Teams meeting.
According to the agenda, the public portion of the meeting will be followed by five in-camera items.
The first item is advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose: Property Matter
The second matter is in regards to personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees: Moffat Family Fund recommendations
The third item is about a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board: North End Inquiry
The fourth item is in regards to a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board: Surplus Property
The final in-camera item deals with labour relations or employee negotiations: Firefighter Association
Other business on the agenda tonight includes:
• a report re: Award of RFP 20-OF-04 – Preparation of a Long Range Waste Management Plan
• a report re: Airport Facility Lease Renewal – CBRE Maintenance Garage Bay November 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021
• a report re: Request from Cornerstone Hangars for a hangar lot lease at the Fort Frances Airport
• a letter from Ian McKay, RefleXion Studio re: Request for Planning Cost relief
• a by-law to amend by-law 63/11 The Official Plan, as amended (814/820 Scott Street)
• a by-law to amend by-law 03/14 the Zoning By-law, as amended (814/820 Scott Street)
• a by-law to delegate certain authority to the Chief Building Official