Town rejects plea to reconsider old Fort High

Council unanimously defeated a request to reconsider discussing purchasing the old Fort Frances High School on First Street East for $1 from the Rainy River District School Board at Monday night’s regular meeting.
The request was made in a letter co-written by local residents Amy Marchuk, Betty Sue Kenny, and Lisa Calder, who offered a few ideas on potential uses for the property.
“We would like to see the town purchase the property. Although it will cost a great deal to demolish, it could be done in stages,” the letter read (the same letter also appeared in the Fort Frances Times last Wednesday).
“The town could have an open sale of all the furnishings, windows, doors, lockers, hardwood flooring, etc. that people could purchase, including the large fencing around the tennis court.
“Once the building was stripped of anything salvageable, with the exception of the bricks, the town would then proceed to demolish the building in stages (since it was built in stages)—let’s say a section each year for a three-year period,” noted the letter.
“The bricks could then be used to build a beautiful ‘pavilion’ like they have in International Falls at Smokey Bear Park, thereby keeping a bit of the history of the old Fort High.
“The property could be landscaped and used as a central park for future events, also using the leftover bricks for walkways.
“The town would then be able to generate revenue from the rental of the pavilion for special events throughout the year. Examples: folk festival, Fun in the Sun events, concerts, Little Theatre, children’s events, and a place for town people to gather for guest speakers, etc.
“It could have some benches there and picnic tables brought out when an event is featured, thereby preventing loitering,” the letter continued. “We also feel that we have enough playgrounds in Fort [Frances] and therefore the area should not have any play equipment.
“This property is in the heart of Fort Frances, not to mention on a very popular street that many tourists use to pass through, and it would be nice have some beautiful green space for everyone to enjoy.
“We hope our idea is not too late for the town to reconsider,” the letter concluded.
None of the councillors discussed the request before the vote, although Mayor Glenn Witherspoon noted the Rainy River Future Development Corp. still is looking into a use for the property while the recently-approved “Re-Inventing Fort Frances” feasibility study also will be, too.
Council previously had discussed the possibility of buying the old high school for several months but announced at its July 8 meeting it no longer would consider buying it due to the high cost of either restoration or demolition.

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