The “Re-Inventing Fort Frances” committee is a big step closer to hiring a consultant for a feasibility study after Jim Wilson, the new minister of Northern Development and Mines, announced Friday the group will receive $39,000 for the project.
“Everything is going positive,” said “Re-Inventing” committee chair Janis Lesko after hearing of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. money.
“Now that we have another level of government showing support, it won’t be long before the rest follows through. I expect we’ll hire a consultant very soon,” Lesko added.
“It’s good to hear,” echoed Sam Woods of Ranier, Mn., who also sits on the committee.
“The project is something that’s been well-discussed and it seems that the powers that be are happy with the way things developed,” he added.
While town council last week refused to commit to hiring the consulting firm Hilderman, Thomas, Frank and Cram (HTFC) before provincial and federal funding was secured, Lesko said the committee “suspected” funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. was on its way all along.
“But we didn’t know for sure, we take nothing for granted,” she remarked.
Council agreed to have the matter brought back at its next meeting (May 13) at which time, if word also has been heard from FedNor, the town likely will agree to give the green light to hiring the consultants.
The job of the Winnipeg-based consultants, if selected, would be to conduct a feasibility study regarding aspects of the “Re-Inventing” project, which includes everything from promoting the downtown core to possibly transforming the old Fort High property for a number of uses.
Lesko noted one suggestion made by the consultants the committee is going to follow through on is an “envisioning workshop,” where parties such as the town, Business Improvement Area, and Chamber of Commerce will gather to determine tasks and develop schemes for co-ordinating and funding tasks.
The consulting fee is $108,712 (including GST). This would be paid in part by the town as well as other local contributors, including the Chamber, BIA, and Rainy River Future Development Corp., as well as the provincial and federal governments.
The “Re-Inventing” committee has spent hundreds of hours over the past 10 months working on this project, which is meant to promote tourism in Fort Frances while creating and retaining jobs and revitalizing the business district.
The committee consists of Lesko, Woods, Mayor Glenn Witherspoon, CAO Bill Naturkach, Geoff Gillon, Sue Bodnarchuk, Dan Cousineau, Jane Johnston, Gord Winik, Jean-Marc Blanc, Ted DeBenetti, Trisha Mauro, and Tammi Shoemaker.