The town has chosen its consultant to conduct a land use and economic development feasibility study for the Shevlin wood yard and former Resolute Forest Products' nursing station.
HTFC Planning and Design out of Winnipeg will be awarded the Request for Proposal (RFP) once all funding from senior levels of government is secured, council agreed at its regular meeting Monday night.
Mayor June Caul told the Times the firm was decided on prior to the current Resolute mill “fiasco” and that council wants to keep moving forward with the feasibility study.
“We wanted to get started and not worry about what's going to happen with the mill," she remarked. ”It has no bearing on what's going on with [the Shevlin wood yard and former nursing station].
“We had talked about whether or not a company purchasing the mill might need [the wood yard] for storage, but we had decided we have other areas in town that could be used, as well, so that we could move forward on this.”
Mayor Caul said she's enthusiastic to see what might result from the land use and economic development feasibility study.
“It's exciting to know that we've got this huge piece of property and we've got so many things that could be done,” she remarked.
“Of course, everybody has an idea as to what could be done there," she added. ”Council will take the lead with the consultant but it's very important to us that the public gets input, as well.
“We won't have a public committee formed for that; everything will filter down through us as a council," Mayor Caul explained. ”But certainly there will be an opportunity for the public to participate.
“That's one of the most important things for me as mayor: to always make sure the public has a voice in everything,” she stressed.
“This town is theirs.”
The study is to be conducted through consultation with local stakeholders, the economic development office, and mayor and council. The purpose of this study is to evaluate how the properties can be best utilized to maximize their economic potential.
The study will analyze the sites and the surrounding environment to understand which investments are appropriate and what steps are needed to attract new investment.
Seven proposals were received in December, which were reviewed and scored on criteria including quality of the proposal submitted, past experience in completing similar projects, key personnel assigned to the project, cost of the proposal, value of the proposal (considers quality and cost), and schedule.
HTFC ultimately was recommended by the review committee.
The firm previously was involved with developing and establishing several long-term visionary economic development plans for the community, such as the “Re-Inventing Fort Frances" project, "Gateway to Canada” plan, Fort Frances Heritage Tourism implementation, Fort Frances Active Transportation plan, and Phase 1 of the Rainy Lake Square property.
Mayor Caul pointed out HTFC also will use local firm Saulteaux Consulting & Engineering while conducting the study.
“That means a lot to me to know somebody local will be involved,” she remarked.
“The work won't be all going out of our town; it stays within our area.”
HTFC also offered the lowest hourly rate ($136.18 per hour), the highest time allotment to complete the study (963 hours), and the most public consultation sessions and visits to Fort Frances (six trips total).
HTFC expects to complete the study in six months after it is awarded.
The study is estimated to have a net cost of $131,138 ($145,623.10 after taxes) and will be funded by three components: the town ($16,000), the province ($75,000), and the federal government ($60,000).
Total funding is estimated at $151,000.
Back in the early fall, the town submitted economic development funding applications to both levels of senior government—FedNor (federal) and the Rural Economic Development (RED) Program (provincial)—to complete a feasibility study.
To date, the town has received verbal notification that the FedNor funding is in place, with the funding agreements being forthcoming for execution.