My name is Rick Wiedenhoeft and I am running for a seat on Fort Frances town council.
I believe that my last council experience—I served 11 years from 2003 to 2014—will bring historical perspective and context to the table. This is particularly valuable with the potential of five new councillors being elected. That being said, new people with new ideas is a good thing. There is a steep learning curve for all new members but I am ready to hit the road running.
I am personable, easy to get along with, and a team player. I am not afraid to state my opinion but always willing to listen to others. I believe in transparency and giving taxpayers a voice.
My preparation is thorough and I do my homework. Finally, I am very careful with taxpayers' dollars, having experience at council budgeting and as past head of Physical Education and Athletic Director at FFHS.
There are many issues, both past, yet still active, and present that must be dealt with by council. The first is the disposition of the Resolute mill. We simply cannot let it sit there and decay any longer. Constant and open dialogue with Resolute is essential.
Next, we have aging infrastructure. There are approx. 5.7 km of crumbling water and sewer pipes that are in critical need of replacement. At an all in cost of $5,000 to $6,000 per metre, this will take time, careful budgeting and provincial grants.
There is also the issue of the Point Park with Agency One and the Couchiching two-chain to be resolved. This will require working collaboratively with First Nations and the province. Connecting Link and adequate OMPF funding are ongoing as well. Youthout migration, jobs and quality of life issues have been a constant since my first term in office.
Going forward, council will have to deal with an aging population, senior housing, health care and doctor recruitment, even though the later is not mandated.
The effective use of the recently acquired Shevlin wood yard and associated building lots/mixed use of the property will be a big issue.
Finally, council will have to deal with the implications of legalized marijuana, the spread of opioids especially fentanyl and the looming methamphetamine problem. All of these issues will take a collective effort as no one person has the answers.
How do create a sustainable future for Fort Frances?
The first step is economic stability. With new homes going up all over town, new town houses/condos being built, and houses for sale being snapped up, people employed and many new vehicles on the road, it would appear that the economy is in a positive upswing.
Families have remained in town, despite the closure of Resolute. New schools are being built and student populations seem to be stable.
Another good indicator of sustainability is a vibrant downtown. With the addition of the Rainy Lake Square, new storefronts and sidewalks, Scott street is a hub of activity.
However, sustainability is not accomplished in isolation. The Rainy River District, with mining, agriculture and tourism is creating jobs, and economic stimulus for the entire region. We must work with our neighbours.
Finally, clubs, recreation facilities and related activities, for fun and fitness are essential for a quality of life that will lead to a happy, productive and sustainable future for the town I love.