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ASB’s future likely to be decided Friday

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Whether or not a working group will proceed to stage two of its plan to look into the feasibility of creating an Area Services Board (ASB) for Rainy River District likely will be determined at its next meeting here Friday.

“We can’t really say yet how many municipalities support it quite yet,” said Fort Frances Coun. Dave Bourgeault, who is chairman of the working group.

“But by Friday, the municipalities should have had the time to let us know,” he added. “I suspect we’ll proceed to stage two, in which we’ll determine who, what, when, where, why.

“But if the members aren’t there, we won’t go ahead with it.”

Coun. Bourgeault admitted it’s clear some of the unorganized areas don’t want to be on board following votes held May 22.

For instance, the “central” area, including Watten and Halkirk east of Fort Frances, voted 40-0 against a motion to explore an ASB while the 91 residents of the “eastern” area (east, west, and north of Atikokan) also voted unanimously against it.

But the “western” area (west end of the district) voted 11-0 in favour of pursuing stage two.

Coun. Bourgeault said the unorganized areas are concerned they only will get to vote once on whether or not to pursue the ASB, while district municipalities will get the chance to withdraw after stage two is complete.

But he added a lack of commitment at this point isn’t reasonable.

“You have no idea what we’re looking at here until phase two is done, the costs involved, and so on,” Coun. Bourgeault argued.

“If we continue to phase two and at the end of it all, pass resolutions saying we don’t want this, I can’t imagine the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines telling us we have to,” he noted.

If a double majority—a majority of the municipalities and unorganized areas’ working group members representing a majority of the district’s population—are in favour of going ahead with stage two, the working group will proceed with a $60,000 provincially-funded study of how an ASB would work here.

The purpose of an ASB is to take over services—including land ambulance, “Ontario Works,” day care, and social housing services—from the local District Social Services Administrative Board (DSSAB), as well as manage public health and homes for the aged.

Friday’s meeting starts at 2 p.m. at the Civic Centre.

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