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Sustainability focus of new committee

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The town soon will be looking for representatives to sit on a new board called the Fort Frances Sustainability Strategic Steering Committee.

The committee is being struck as the next step in the process to apply to funding agencies for the completion of a community sustainability plan as well as plan a better future for Fort Frances.

Sustainability co-ordinator Travis Rob said Monday that the process to get a community sustainability plan done by a consultant actually started a year ago.

But shortly thereafter, the main source of funding the town was going to apply for to do the study (the Green Municipal Fund, or GMF) was put on hold until this past December—and so was the process.

“Essentially, what we are looking at is having a consultant come in and do a community sustainability plan—look at our infrastructure, look at our operations, look at our community as a whole—and make recommendations to change how we do things to become more sustainable,” Rob explained.

“The sky’s the limit for this type of plan,” he noted, adding it could cover everything from energy efficiency to waste management.

“Some of the things we’ve thought about looking at, in a draft sense, are things like our landfill and recycling services,” Rob said. “That’s a high-cost project to do recycling right now.

“How can we lower that cost, whether it be different operationals, pairing up with other municipalities? Where do we go from here so that moving into the future, we can still afford to have that service to the people of Fort Frances?

“Other things are our water and wastewater,” added Rob. “Again, rather high cost in terms of infrastructure.

“We have a lot of money invested in infrastructure,” he noted. “What do we do with that infrastructure, what do we do with the rating schemes to ensure that it is sustainable well into the future?”

The steering committee will be made up of one member of town council, four members of the community at large, and one member each from the local Economic Development Advisory Committee, BIA, and Chamber of Commerce.

Rob said the town will be looking for residents to sit on the committee.

“Part of this whole community sustainability plan is that it is as much about the corporation as it is about the people that live in the municipality,” he remarked.

“So we need to have as much say from people from the community as we do from people looking after the operations.”

As well, the town will send invitations to the Township of Alberton council and

Couchiching First Nation band council to each send one rep.

Rob and the Rainy River Future Development Corp. will provide support staff for the committee.

The first job of the committee will be to review a draft Terms of Reference and “make sure it doesn’t go too far in any respects, and make sure it isn’t missing anything in other respect,” noted Rob.

“From there, we’re going to apply for some funding, put out an RFP [request for proposal], and depending on how much the RFP comes back for, we can refine our scope from there,” he added.

Rob said he’d like the committee to hold its first meeting in March. After that, an application would be submitted for a grant, with an average four-month waiting period to find out if its successful.

Once the town hears back about the grant funding, the committee would meet again to review how much money it has to do a study and then put out an RFP.

After a consultant is selected, it will take about a year to complete a plan.

“So, we’re looking at probably a year-and-a-half from now until we’re done,” said Rob.

Along the way, there will be open houses for community consultation—all directed by the steering committee, he added.

“The steering committee, throughout the whole thing, is really there to guide the project,” Rob stressed. “To make sure it stays on task, on topic, and adjust it as needed throughout the project.

“They’re kind of the go-to people for the project,” he explained.

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