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Customs debate continues


The customs debate continues as Fort Frances town council decided to set aside a second proposal for a new facility--for the time being.

During a special meeting last held last Thursday council members debated the potential for a second toll increase and the impact accepting the new proposal would have on plans to build a new bridge.

Coun. Roy Avis said he was reluctant to accept the new proposal because the companies funding the project indicated that tolls on the bridge would go up by an undetermined amount if construction went ahead.

“I can’t understand why a company of that size can’t say what a toll increase would be,” said Coun. Avis who received support from other members of council to hold off on the proposal.

“When we made the decision to hold off on this we wanted to see what the companies were doing with the tolls . . . we’re stuck in a catch-22,” added Coun. Bourgeault. “I agree with Coun. Avis that the tolls have not been addressed for the future.”

There was also some concern from council with the rate changes that have already been announced by the bridge owners.

“If you don’t have a swipe card you’re looking at a round trip of $9, that is not a good welcome to Canada,” pointed out Coun. Deane Cunningham.

And Coun. Struchan Gilson voiced his concern with the entire proposal altogether and questioned why plans to build a less-expensive, on-bridge facility had not been drafted.

“I’m no expert but this one we have in front of us now really bothers me, I’m just not happy with it,” said Coun. Gilson who explained that the area in the proposal is often cluttered with traffic and will only be more confusing with the new facility.

Coun. Tibbs on the other hand urged council to go ahead with the approval of the facility.

“We should vote on the resolution today in a positive manner and move on,” she said.

Mayor Glenn Witherspoon also voiced some concern in delaying the resolution.

“It’s like any business,” added Mayor Glenn Witherspoon. “If you want to recoup a cost this is a way of doing it, no one has to go on a bridge if they don’t want to.”

“The problem is there’s no alternative,” argued Coun. Cunningham.

The resolution to accept the proposal if six conditions were met was amended to include two more requiring Abitibi-Consolidated and Boise Cascade to provide a written document ensuring they would not object to the building a new bridge in the future and that the projected increase of the future tolls be announced prior to council’s approval.

The six conditions already required from the town before the latest proposal could go ahead, included:

•no cost to the town;

•that all land exchanges be of equal value;

•a decision on which roads would be given “connecting link” status;

•the final architecture and survey measurements be supplied;

•a number of estimates be finalized; and

•formal public presentation meetings be held by the proponents.

If approved, the new facility would be built along the south side of Church Street between Central Avenue and Mowat Avenue.

Westbound traffic exiting the facility would be encouraged to turn left towards Central Avenue to connect to King’s Highway. Eastbound traffic would turn right on Church Street, right on a new road between Mowat Avenue and Portage Avenue to reach Nelson Street, and then travel along Front Street to Colonization Road in the east end.

Mowat Avenue south of Church Street and the west end of Nelson Street would be closed.

The new facility would sport four primary inspection lanes (three for regular traffic and one for commercial traffic) as well as a secondary inspection station to be built on the northeast corner of Mowat Avenue and Church Street.

The difference between this proposal and the one council previously had approved is the location of the Ontario tourist information centre and the secondary inspection area.

At the cost of an extra $750,000, the tourism building was to be moved to the northeast corner of Mowat Avenue and Church Street, with the secondary inspection station to built on its current site.

But because of a funding shortfall, the tourism building will remain on the northeast corner of Church Street and Central Avenue.

If approved, it will be up to the International Bridge and Terminal Co. and M.D.&W. Railway to determine the contractors and timeline for the project.

(Fort Frances Daily Bulletin)

is demanding the companies that own the international bridge announce how much tolls will go up before approving the latest proposal to build a new Canada Customs facility here.

Council held a special meeting late Thursday morning at the Civic Centre to decide whether to approve the facility in the wake of the toll hikes announced Wednesday and effective Oct. 1.

Most councillors were not willing to approve the new facility until they are aware of how much more local commuters would have to pay in tolls after the bridge owners admitted more increases are likely if the new facility goes ahead.

“If we approve this project and the tolls double or triple, it is a concern,” Coun. Dave Bourgeault said.

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