Town still hopeful of mill restart

Duane Hicks

The Town of Fort Frances remains hopeful the mill here will restart and is open to working with any potential buyers.
Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig, who gave a status update on the most recent strategic plan, entitled “Incredible Community, Boundless Opportunity,” told Monday night’s council meeting the town believes “the mill is still a viable business opportunity.”
He added the town is committed to working with Resolute if there’s a potential of restarting that facility.
McCaig conceded there’s been “much speculation” about the mill re-starting, but the public has to appreciate such matters are confidential.
“The town has certainly availed ourselves to work with anybody in regards to a potential restart,” McCaig stressed, adding this interaction could include talking about services the town might provide and the town’s relationship with a potential new company.
“That could happen,” he said. “We’re committed to that, and if there’s an opportunity to do that, the town will jump at that.
“We will try to work with people to preserve the legacy of forestry within our community.”
McCaig also noted residents have been speculating about what could happen with various mill-related properties in the future.
“We can’t make any commentary about properties because final disposition of the mill in general hasn’t taken place,” he explained.
“That would be just speculative.
“Are there a lot of key properties that the town would be interested in? Absolutely,” McCaig said.
“From what I’ve heard at the table, the town would be more than willing to step up to the plate and consult if there was any availability of some of these key pieces.”
Running through some of the other key points in the latest strategic plan, McCaig said the Rainy Lake Market Square initiative is moving forward.
In the past year, the old hotel was demolished, an architecture firm was hired, and the design stage is underway to develop the property this summer.
But McCaig stressed the process to determine what the market square will become is “not shrouded in secrecy”—and not being decided behind closed doors nor controlled by the town.
“It couldn’t be further from the truth,” he remarked.
“What we’re trying to do more than anything is not tell everybody what we want, but facilitate the participative process we’ve told everybody we’re going to have,” added McCaig.
A Rainy Lake Market Square Committee is in place which includes a blend of stakeholders.
It includes Charleen Mallory and John McTaggart (Economic Development Advisory Committee), Scott Krienke-Turvey and Dan Cousineau (Shops on Scott-BIA), Jenny Greenhalgh and Mark Caron (Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce), and Kim Cornell (Clover Valley Farmers’ Market).
Rounding out the committee are Mayor Roy Avis, Couns. June Caul and Ken Perry, Geoff Gillon and Tannis Drysdale (Rainy River Future Development Corp.), Jane Gillon (Ministry of Northern Development and Mines), and resource persons Sherry George and Nathalie Donaldson.
“Everybody is having a crack at it and giving their say,” McCaig noted.
An open house to solicit input from the public was held last month and attended by about 60 people.
Scatliff + Miller + Murray will take the input provided by the public and come up with drawings, which will be presented publicly for comment this spring.
The project is expected to be done at the end of August.
McCaig said the town also is hoping to reach an agreement regarding the Point Park land this year.
“We’ve taken some great steps last year with our First Nations’ partners of Agency One—the four bands of Agency One—in regards to the Point Park land,” he told council.
“We had some compelling dialogue about what the future could look like for the park lands, and how we can work together so that everybody could benefit and enjoy them,” he added.
“We made some good strides.”
McCaig noted there have been some band elections of late, and that the town looks forward to getting back to the table with the Agency One leaders to talk some more.
He said the ultimate goal is “getting rid of all of the litigation that’s currently before us and some that we’ve already participated in.”
“So I’m excited about doing that, and I’m excited about working with the First Nations,” McCaig added.
The strategic plan was drafted, with input from stakeholders, during an exercise last June.
McCaig said the strategic planning process, along with the annual solicitation of budget input, is one of the best opportunities for residents to participate in local government.
He admitted the strategic plan was “ambitious,” with an aggressive timeline to address many of the items.
“All in all, I feel we’re on track,” McCaig said.