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Costly closure

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News of toll booth changes at the international bridge here, including the loss of jobs with the impending closure of the one on the Canadian side as well as the spectre of a hefty price hike, has sparked anger among residents on both sides of the border.

The issue even was brought up at Monday night’s council meeting (although it was tabled for future discussion).

Now comes word the Fort Frances jail will be closed in the spring of 2004—taking with it 24 full-time jobs and nine part-time ones. And there’s been nary a peep so far.

There should be! At an average per diem rate of $163.73 per employee, the loss of that many jobs translates into serious money being siphoned out of the district economy. We’re certainly not talking about nickels and dimes here.

And that’s not taking into account the human cost as those employees face the prospect of having to uproot their families from the Fort Frances area in search of jobs elsewhere in the province, or look for another line of work here.

Now tack on to that the cost of having to transfer prisoners back and forth from the “super jail” in Thunder Bay for their court appearances here, not to mention an increased danger for escapes.

Then there’s the question of what to do about those people who are given intermittent (or weekend) jail sentences. Must they be shunted back and forth, too, or will they be responsible to get there on their own expense?

Does all this sound cost-effective and efficient?

Unless, of course, the province’s next step is to hold court via video-conference (where the accused and judge/jury don’t have to be in the same place).

Or maybe the Fort Frances Courthouse is next on the chopping block?

Let’s hope there’s more opportunity for local public input before that decision is made.

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