The past month has been a busy period for your town council as we have renewed ties with out partners that will ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our community. In January, council attended the Rainy River District Municipal Association’s annual meeting in Emo, which was an opportunity to share ideas and concerns within the district. Then last week, council sent a delegation to the Rural Ontario Municipal conference, which is combined with the Ontario Good Roads Association’s annual meeting. The conference activities consisted of a series of workshops and addresses ranging from rural economic development to new asphalting techniques. Our representatives also made use of the time to schedule meetings with provincial ministers to discuss issues that will require collaboration between our two orders of government. We met with the ministers of Northern Development and Mines, Agricultural and Rural Affairs, Transportation, and Governmental Affairs, as well as leaders of both opposition parities. Additionally, we supported the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association by attending its meetings with the provincial government. During our presentations to the provincial government, we discussed and requested assistance with the pending sale of the international bridge here and infrastructure funding for the various necessary projects we will undertake over the next few years. We were able to bring to the attention of Gerry Phillips, the minister responsible for lottery licensing regulations, the importance of expanding the criteria for small local fundraisers—and the negative impacts his ministry’s refusal to issue the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship has had on our community. Similarly, we expressed concern to the agriculture minister regarding the impact of regulations related to farm-killed beef. It was clear that Minister Dombrowski shared our concern and is actively engaged in the file. In other news, the 2007 budget process has been proceeding on schedule. At the special council meeting on March 2, the sewer and water rates were approved with an overall rate increase of two percent. This rate approval equates to a monthly increase of $1.22 for every residential sewer and water billing. The sewer and water operations and capital upgrades are funded through the rates and not general taxation. This concept is known as a “stand alone” utility. Meanwhile, town council and management have been working with Abitibi-Consolidated staff to both ensure the provincial government understands the importance of supporting our bio-mass boiler project and move expediently through local infrastructure and planning issues. Just yesterday, councillors attended the 2007 “Community Summit” to hear and provide input into the opportunities that form our future economy. By reaching out to our partners in prosperity, working as a team at council, and being visible at those functions where decisions about our community will be debated, this mayor and council is working hard to be real partners in the progress of Fort Frances.