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District municipalities caught off guard by word Fort Frances may pull out of RRFDC

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During Monday night’s council meeting, Fort Frances re-affirmed its decision to pursue other means of economic development instead of the Rainy River Future Development Corp.--a move that has caught some district municipal leaders by surprise.

“I have no idea what to tell you. I’ll have go call [RRFDC CEO] Geoff [Gillon] and see how the funding is,” said Rainy River Mayor Gord Armstrong. “You caught me off guard.”

The RRFDC, which funds economic development across the district, receives just under $60,000 from Fort Frances for its services--services the town is considering replacing with its own economic development officer when the current RRFDC contract ends Dec. 31.

“We passed a resolution approximately three meetings ago that we would enter into asking for a request for proposal for hiring our own EDO,” said Fort Frances Mayor Glenn Witherspoon.

“We’ve developed some infrastructure and we can go out with what we have,” he added, citing the town’s airport, industrial area, improved telecommunication, businesses, and public utility commission require more time and flexibility than the RRFDC can provide.

“My feeling is that our district needs to stick together,” said Chapple Reeve Cecil Wilson. “Things are not like they used to be and we have to go district-wide with things.

“I don’t know really what their reasoning is. Maybe they’re right. Fort Frances is not stupid and they must have good reasons for doing it,” he added.

“We lose a major contributor like Fort Frances, it’s certainly not going to bode well for the RRFDC,” warned Emo’s acting reeve Cecil Ogden, who would like to see the RRFDC accommodate the town, possibly by hiring another person to promote it.

“I would just like to see the district co-operate in these things. What’s good for one community is good for the next community,” he stressed.

The RRFDC would not comment on the decision until it receives official correspondence from Fort Frances council clarifying its position.

“I’m a member of the board and I don’t want to say anything at this point,” remarked La Vallee Reeve Ken McKinnon.

The town previously had its own economic development officer but opted to do away with the position in the 1990s and pay for the services of the RRFDC to save money.

Fort Frances Coun. Bill Martin voiced some concern the town was moving too fast and should be careful not to make the same mistake again.

“What benefit are we going to get if we don’t know how much it’s going to cost,” he wondered. “Three years ago, we voted to do away with [an economic development officer].

“I haven’t seen all the options in front of this council yet,” he added.

The town passed a resolution Monday to look into economic development options as part of the 2001 budget process, and will notify the RRFDC of that decision.

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