The Town of Fort Frances has recently purchased flowers to be planted at the cemetery and around town in the spring.
Travis Rob, operations and facilities manager, said the plan the town is working on depends on COVID-19 restrictions.
Rob said even if there are restrictions in the spring, the town is in a better shape to work around challenges that prevented them from doing work at the cemetery last spring.
“We understand the [challenges] better,” Rob said. “We have better protocols in place to allow that level of staffing in the cemetery. We are blind right now, but we think we will be able to safely have our full complement of students for the summer to have a normal-looking cemetery.”
Last spring, Fort Frances residents were less than impressed with the state of the cemetery. The lack of upkeep, including not having the weeds trimmed and flowers planted, disappointed residents.
Rob said last spring, the town was following the guidelines set by the Ministry of Labour that included outdoor gatherings and keeping students physically distanced, which caused problems.
“The big challenge that we have is staffing numbers in vehicles,” Rob said. “Originally the Ministry of Labour said we can only have one staff member per truck. This was very problematic for us. We didn’t have a finite number of vehicles.”
That being said, since the spring more information has been known about the virus, its transmissible nature and the best safety practices. Rob said since that time, the Ministry of Labour opened it up to have multiple people in trucks provided they keep their masks on.
“Now that we as a corporation and the governing bodies that we have to report to, are understanding more and more about the virus and how it spreads, we are able to accommodate our staff safely,” Rob said.
Rob added that the benefit they have in the summertime is that most work occurs outdoors, allowing them to comfortably keep physical distance while woking.
The Fort Frances council is supportive of a tentative plan submitted by the operations and facilities division, Rob said. They started to reach out to all returning students in order to have an understanding of how many of them to expect to come this summer, he added.
The town usually hires 12 students using grants provided by the government. Due to the pandemic, Rob said the government has been more flexible in terms of their requirements for the recipients of the funding.
With summer students starting work first week of May, Rob said the main focus is to do a winter cleanup around town.
“Once we have that done we shift our focus to the cemetery,” Rob said. “Our goal every year is to have the cemeteries fully planted by Father’s Day weekend.”
Rob said they made a deal with Hammond Landscaping LTD. and bought 5,000 pots of flowers that cost the town $22,500 including taxes.
These flowers will be used to plant both cemeteries, the Welcome to Fort Frances sign, the Rainy Lake Square, the Sorting Gap and the Civic Centre, to mention a few.