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Library total keeps rising


The support keeps growing for the new Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre, with the most recent tally putting the “Building for the Future” campaign total over $825,000.

Campaign chair Mark Kowalchuk, library board chair Joyce Cunningham, board member Arlene Georgeson, and chief librarian Margaret Sedgwick presented a giant-sized cheque to Mayor Roy Avis and Deputy Mayor Sharon Tibbs on Friday during a ceremony at the site of the future facility on the corner of Second Street East and Reid Avenue.

“On behalf of the hundreds and hundreds of households, businesses, individuals, and organizations in Fort Frances and the district, and outside of the district, it is my honour and privilege to present this cheque to you today,” said Kowalchuk.

“We did set a goal 18 months ago for $750,000 and this cheque represents all the donations we’ve been able to gather up from the people that think that this project is going to make a wonderful difference to Fort Frances and to the district,” he added.

“I’d like to present to you today this cheque for over $825,000.”

After seeing the success of the “Building for the Future” campaign, Mayor Roy Avis said it’s clear to him most citizens in the community, especially if they’ve made donations towards it, support a new library being built here.

“I think it’s time now council really takes a good look at this project and see if we can’t get it moving forward in our budget process this year,” he remarked.

Mayor Avis noted the town has two applications for funding out at this time—one to the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. and another to FedNor—and now is waiting for answers on those.

“Any communications I’ve had with those parties has been very positive,” he said. “I am looking forward to seeing . . . this project move forward as soon as we can.”

“I’d like to thank Roy and the council for the work they’ve done towards procuring those grants. I hope they are successful,” said Cunningham. “There has been a lot of work done in the background, and we appreciate that.”

“And it’s not just the initial approach that has been made on those grants,” echoed Kowalchuk. “It’s the follow-ups when the grants weren’t coming through that council said, ‘You know what? We have to have another look at this. We need to make that attempt to talk to the minister [of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle].’

“I know that you’ve had some direct conversations with individuals in this area, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed,” he added.

“Any type of communications we’ve had in the last little while have been very positive because they want to see Fort Frances become the hub of a technology centre,” said Mayor Avis, adding Gravelle should be thanked for “being very receptive to this project” and “has been working hard and diligently to see our grant applications goes through for a technology centre.”

“We talked ‘technology centre’ and that’s the key,” said deputy mayor Sharon Tibbs. “We listened to different ministers and Members of Parliament, and that became very apparent that was the key word.

“We have worked on that in that respect because we really need this,” she stressed.

Mayor Avis also noted the $175,000 donation from Shaw Communications this summer “was well-recognized and received within the government areas,” adding they like to see the corporate sector come in and invest in a community project like this.

Tibbs said it’s very important Fort Frances have a top-notch facility that make it a more attractive place for professionals, such as doctors, and their spouses and families to come and stay.

“It think that’s important and that will be a selling point for us,” she noted.

“That initial flush of money that came from the provincial government talked about economic enhancements and . . . use by the business community, and we certainly see the library and technology centre becoming a hub for that sort of thing, especially for start-up businesses that don’t have themselves established yet,” agreed Kowalchuk.

“We’re looking for great things to come from this library.

“Fort Frances has many things that make it stand out from other communities in the province, and the library and technology centre will become another of the crown jewels for Fort Frances, to make us really appeal to people from out of the area and to retain young people in our community,” he added.

Kowalchuk said donations for the library have kept coming in. The “Drive for 35” phone blitz got the ball rolling several weeks ago, and as of last Monday the total topped $804,000. But success breeds success apparently—and the pledge cards keep coming in.

“People were saying, ‘We were going to give $1,000. We’re upping that to $2,000 because we think it’s so important,’” he remarked. “People came out from areas you didn’t expect them from, and also some people had made commitments during the blitz week and said, ‘We’re going to do this. We’re thinking of doing this.’

“And when they came in, they said, ‘The two of us were going to donate $1,000 between the two of us, and now we’re going to do $1,000 each. Those kind of things were so unexpected.

“Small amounts, large amounts, they all added up, and they continue to come in. We think over the next weeks there won’t necessarily be the same flood of money coming in, but we do expect it will continue,” said Kowalchuk. “We’ll continue to update town council as to how it’s coming along, and certainly the community through the media.

“We think it’s going to be a very good thing. And with this thing today, passing over the money to council, it’s really been a positive move we’ve looked forward to,” he enthused.

Cunningham noted the library building committee has met with architect John Knox and had telephone conversations with him, and gone over in great detail the library plans and the services and program they wish to offer, and expects to present council with a final report by the end of this month.

“We examined everything so many times, I can almost tell you the square footage of every area of the building, and how many books we have and how many computers we have,” added Cunningham. “So we’ve done as much as we possibly can, and that will be in the report to be presented to council.

“And, of course, we’re doing the number crunching.”

She admitted inflationary costs are one of the factors the building committee currently is wrestling with. Earlier this year, the cost of a new library and technology centre had been estimated at $3.86 million, but the committee is aware that because of the delay in the project, this number will jump in 2009.

Cunningham reiterated the building committee aims to put the job out to tender in January, and begin construction in the spring.

“We don’t have time to sit around. We have to keep moving,” she stressed.

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