Town to pursue forming ASB

Following notice the townships of Emo, Dawson, and Lake of the Woods are pursuing the formation of an Area Services Board (ASB), Fort Frances has joined the initiative—and plans to take a leadership role.
“There was a reluctance on our part as a municipality to get on with this,” said Coun. Dave Bourgeault.
“We felt there could be some suspicions raised, with other municipalities asking, ‘What are they doing?” he noted.
“[But] I think now there’s an understanding that someone has to take the lead,” Coun. Bourgeault said, adding Fort Frances is a natural choice as host community with its current infrastructure and administration.
Coun. Sharon Tibbs said the matter of shifting various municipal services has been discussed by the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board, adding, “I think we now have a full understanding of this.”
“The province has told us that if you agree with the idea of ASB, then say something, take a leadership role,” she said. “The indicators I’ve had at this point is Fort Frances should do that.”
As far as direction goes with the switchover from the DSSAB to ASB, the town addressed the issue to some extent in its strategic plan, released back in October.
The plan noted some short-term strategies the town will be pursuing in relation to ASB, including “be vigilant in our pursuit of equitable representation,” with key points being the double majority and representation based on population.
CAO Bill Naturkach noted which services the ASB will take over have yet to be determined, but added it likely will be a major topic at the Rainy River District Municipal Association’s annual meeting here Jan. 26.
Mayor Witherspoon also commented on the recent news that Atikokan, the largest community in the eastern part of the district, may join the ASB spearheaded by Thunder Bay.
“If Atikokan doesn’t want to go with us, let ’em. The ASB is going to happen, it’s been legislated. And it’s just better for us to get on with it,” he remarked.
But it was reported in the Jan. 14 edition of the Atikokan Progress that without Atikokan on board, the Rainy River District would have fewer than 20,000 residents, causing the province to oppose a ASB for such a small group and perhaps order just one ASB for all of the Rainy River and Kenora districts.