Town recruiting for boards and committees

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The Town of Fort Frances is recruiting residents to sit on the Fort Frances Public Library Board, the Committee of Adjustment and the Business Improvement Area Board of Management (BIA).

Both the public library board and the adjustment committee have one position vacancies, while the BIA has six vacant chairs.

Lisa Slomke, municipal clerk, said the BIA is a large board, consisting of 13 members who own businesses on the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Scott Street.

According to the town’s eligibility criteria, in order to serve on the BIA, appointees must be assessed tax with respect to land in the BIA or nominees of corporations to be assessed.

There are now seven individuals sitting on the BIA, Pat Gartshore, Pam Williams, Shelley Wepruk, Scott Krinke-Turvey, Jamie Pryde, Stacey Cridland and Ed Gackley, including Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft.

Slomke said they are advertising for six positions because they have not seen a lot of interest in this area for about six years and it has worsened with the pandemic.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BIA used to organize concerts some years ago. Slomke said they should be involved in anything happening on Scott Street so that they can have a presence.

“It’s a group of business owners that want to get together and they want to make Scott Street more inviting and get more shoppers,” Slomke said. “They want to increase foot traffic on Scott Street. Those are the kinds of things they would like to get involved in. In a normal world, foot traffic equals sales.”

There are two types of committees: public committees that are generated by council and other volunteer groups in the community. All public boards and committees should have at least one council representation, Slomke said. Currently, there are 27 town boards and committees.

Even though the BIA is now operating with almost half of their capacity, Slomke said they have clauses that enable them to continue with reduced numbers because of the wording in their bylaw.

“We’re trying to get people and usually the BIA recruits their own by talking to other business owners,” Slomke said.

Council members are not required to sit in on committees that are not public, but Slomke said sometimes they write to council asking if they can have a member of council on it.

“An example would be the Diversity Committee,” Slomke said. “That’s not a town committee, but Coun. Doug Judson agreed to sit on that committee as requested by Mayor June Caul.”

Slomke said she is optimistic that when businesses start operating at full capacity, things will shape differently.

The Fort Frances Public Library Board falls under their own legislation, Slomke said, with council being the appointing body for the members to the library board. They look at governing affairs of the library and the service it provides to the community.

Councillors Mike Behan and Andrew Hallikas sit on the Fort Frances Public Library Board. There are five appointees to the library board and two members of council, adding up to a total of seven.

The Committee of Adjustment has also been running low on board members. They are tasked with decision making powers from council related to planning matters, for instance, minor variants, applications, or application to sever your property. They meet and consider the application submitted and whether they deem it to be acceptable, Slomke said.

Now there are six members sitting on the Committee of Adjustment and the town is looking for one more qualified person to fill all positions.

“The Committee of Adjustment does not have a council member because they are established by bylaw and they are tasked by bylaw with the powers of council to make decisions,” Slomke said.

These are volunteer-run positions. Depending on the committee, they only have one meeting per month. Some are seasonal, where you put in a lot of time for six months and then you do not put in time for the rest of the year.

“I look at the list of names on these boards and committees. These are community-minded people who want to see things get better,” Slomke said. “I want to encourage people who do have the time and desire to see improvement within our municipality to put their name forward and be willing to commit some time to the boards and we’ll be happy to have them. In order to apply to be a board and committee, you have to be eligible to be a member of council.”