Thursday, November 29, 2012

Second Sudden Death Investigated By OPP

Ontario Provincial Police are investigating a sudden death in Fort Frances.

The body of an unidentified man was discovered Tuesday morning at a residence at the Elizabeth Street Manor.

The OPP Forensic Identification Unit is assisting in identifying the man and cause of death.

The incident comes a little more than two weeks after the body of 45-year-old Leo Whitecrow was discovered inside a room at a Fort Frances motel.

The investigation into that death, ruled a homicide, continues.

Area Politicians To Meet With Resolute President

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty and Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell get a chance to learn more about Resolute Forest Products plans for its operations in Fort Frances.

They have a meeting tonight with president Richard Garneau in Toronto tonight.

Among issues Rafferty intends to bring forward is the talk of possible offers for the plant.

Rafferty also wants to learn about the company's long term future in northwestern Ontario.

FEDNOR Minister Critical of Rafferty Comments

A federal cabinet minister is critical of the MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River for comments he's made about the idling of operations at the Fort Frances mill.

In an open letter, FEDNOR Minister Tony Clement accuses John Rafferty of manipulating the announcement for crass political opportunism by claiming Resolute's problems are the result of a “high dollar policy.”

Rafferty says that statement comes directly from the company itself.

High School Teacher Talks Suspended

Negotiations between the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation and all school boards have been suspended.

Their action comes after the Ministry of Education refused to give approval to a number of locally bargained agreements.

OSSTF's bargaining unit leaders have been summoned to a meeting next Monday to discuss their next steps.

Elementary Teachers Ramp Up Strike Action

The union representing elementary school teachers says there will be major disruptions in schools across the province next month.

The teachers plan to ramp up strike action to protest the governing Liberals' controversial Bill 115.

Parents will get 72-hour notices of planned strikes.

Here in the Rainy River district, elementary teachers have been going through a number of work-to-rules actions since last Thursday.

Chamber Elections Underway

Seven people are seeking four positions open on the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce board of  directors.

They are Rick Smith, owner/manager of Canadian Tire; Paul Noonan, owner of  La Place  RendezVous; Marie Allan, a partner with BDO; Mike Vanderwater, manager of Acklands-Grainger;  Stephanie Wrolstad, CIBC Branch Manager; Steve MacNeil, operations manager with Rainy Lake Tribal Contracting; and Jennifer Greenhalgh, executive director with NCDS.

Voting by Chamber members is now under way until December 7.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Another Death Investigation In Fort Frances

OPP are investigating another death in Fort Frances.

Police say the body of a man was discovered inside a residence at the Elizabeth Street Manor yesterday morning.

His identify and cause of death are still being determined.

A post mortem exam is being conducted today in Kenora.

Meantime, police are still investigation the death of 45-year-old Leo Whitecrow, found dead inside a Fort Frances motel two weeks ago.

Dollar Figure Attached To Idling Announcement

It's going to cost Resolute Forest Products a hefty dollar to idle the kraft mill and paper machine number 5 at its Fort Frances mill.

The company estimates $12-million in severance and other termination benefits for the 239 employees effected.

Another five million will go towards other closure costs.

Resolute is also identifying another 32-million in non-cash asset impairment charges.

Chamber Remains Positive With Mill Shutdown

The idling of operations at the Fort Frances mill top of mind for area business leaders.

Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce held its annual general meeting last night.

President Mark Caron says while the loss of jobs is disappointing and the impact of the idling of the kraft mill and a paper machine will be wide-spread, he's confident the community will over-come.

Caron says the year, still, has been a positive one for the chamber with the hiring of a new manager and a relocation to new offices.

First Nations Opposing Generic Form of Oxycontin

First Nations organizations are fighting the recent approval of a generic form of the drug oxycontin.

Harmony Redsky, a Health Policy Analyst with Grand Council Treaty 3, says they're ready to work with others to combat the effects of the drug in their communities.

Redsky says approval of the drug hurts the work they're now doing to combat drug addictions.

Festive RIDE Program Underway

There's an increased police presence on area roads and highways.

OPP launched their festive RIDE campaign on the weekend in their ongoing work to take drunk drivers off the road.

Acting Sergeant Anne McCoy says they campaigns are effective.

Over 680 drivers last year faced impaired driving charges with another 580 handed license suspensions.

Pay Increase Suggested

An outgoing commissioner with Koochiching County feels the Board may want to consider increasing the pay now given to elected officials in the future.

Commissioners gave approved to keeping salaries of just under $14-thousand with a $ 125-dollar to each meeting they attend - figures that haven't changed in some time..

Mike Hanson says while most don't do it for the money, he believes it has been a deterrent to some thinking about running in the past.

Record Voter Turnout Confirmed

Minnesota's 2012 election is officially the largest in state history.

The State's Canvassing Board has certified results showing just shy of 3-million people cast ballots earlier this month.

That's 30-thousand more than the previous high-water mark.

Seniors Invited To Meeting

Fort Frances council is inviting members of two local seniors groups  to a meeting next week.

The Seniors and Law Enforcement Together and Assisted Living Action Group had asked the town for help in identifying potential properties for an assisted living facility.

Councillor Rick Weidenhoeft says council has a lot of questions it needs answered.

The seniors groups have also asked to town council to delay rezoning the former Huffman School property for housing lots until its review of properties is completed.

Minor Changes To Remuneration Policy

Fort Frances town councillors have approved changes to a policy that includes how they're compensated for the work they provided on behalf of the community.

All were minor wording changes to clarify sections of the policy.

A committee had also recommended a slight increase in mileage paid to attend meetings out of town, but councillors instead voted to keep it at the current rate of 45 cents a kilometre.

There's also no change to councillors salaries.

Marina Fees Drop

A break for boaters mooring at the Sorting Gap Marina.

For a second straight year, fees to rent a boat slip at the Fort Frances waterfront are dropping.

The residential rate drops $27 to $375 while non-residents will pay just about $468 next summer - a $35 dollar decrease.

Rates were dropped 15 per cent last season.

The town's hoping a further reduction will encourage more boaters to tie up their boats at the marina.

Just a third of slips available have been rented out the past two summers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Seniors Groups Want Rezoning Delayed

Seniors groups planning for an assisted living facility in Fort Frances are asking town council to delay a decision to rezone the former Huffman School property.

They want to study first what properties are available for their project.

Bob Armit of the Assisted Living Action Group says the recent idling announcement effecting Resolute Forest Products should be reason enough to hold off on planned housing lots.

Councillor Rick Weidenhoeft doesn't support delaying a decision.

He says the need for new lots is urgently needed to bolster the town's tax base.

Price Of Bag Tags Go Up

An increase in the cost of bag tags in Fort Frances.

The 25 cent increase from the current $2.00 charge goes into effect January 1.

Councillors Ken Perry says it amounts to a 12.5 per cent increase on something residents use while services many residents don't access are going up one per cent.

The increase in bag tags is among a host of user fees that will increase next year, mostly by one per cent.

The cost of bag tags has not increase since 2010.

Town Draft Budget Delayed

A draft budget for Fort Frances council to review will come later than expected.

CAO Mark McCaig says the idling announcement at Resolute Forest Products has to be taken into account in next years budget.

A draft budget is usually presented in early January.

It will now come to council at the end of February

Catholic Board Expands iPad Use

File photo
The Northwest Catholic District School Board is bringing iPads to more of its students.

The Board is expanding a pilot project started with grade 8 students at St. Francis School in Fort Frances.

It's purchasing 30 iPads for grade 7 and 8 students at Atikokan's St. Patrick's School and another 60 for intermediate students at Dryden's St. Joseph's School.

Dryden Man Charged In On-Line Incident

A 19-year-old Dryden man is facing charges after allegedly trying to lure a minor online.

Dryden Police say the investigation involves incidents from 2010 and 2011 involving a 14 year old.

Man Arrested In Fort Frances Incident

An act of vandalism in downtown Fort Frances on the weekend has earned a local man a trip to court.

The 19-year-old was arrested early Saturday morning shortly after OPP responded to an alarm and found a front window of a business smashed.

He's now facing a charge of possession and assaulting a police officer.

Nine Police Cruisers Stuffed in Atikokan

Courtesy Debra Bruyere
OPP's Stuff-a-Cruiser event in the Rainy River District is off to a great start.

Atikokan residents helped police stuff nine cruisers with food and gift items Saturday in the first leg of the district wide event.

That's two more than last year.

The goods are being dispersed between the Atikokan Native Friendship Centre, Atikokan Christmas Cheer and the Faith Lutheran Church's food bank.

Stuff a cruiser events in Fort Frances and Emo go December 8.

Summer Christmas Concert CDs Now Available.

CD launch at Fort Frances Library
A summer concert of local performers is now out on CD and DVD.

It's from a special Christmas concert held in August at Cornell Farms.

Kim Cornell says all of the proceeds will go to the Salvation Army in Fort Frances.

They hoping to sell 500 copies which would raise up to $10-thousand.
  The two-disk package is available at Clover Valley Farmers Market, Loweys, Tompkins Hardware and Canada Safeway.

Flu Is Here

A warning from the Northwestern Health Unit.

It says, through lab results, it's confirmed the presence of the flu in the Kenora and Rainy River districts.

Manager of Infectious Disease, Donna Stanley says even though their clinics have wrapped up, you can still get the vaccine at doctors clinics, pharmacies and by calling the Health Unit.

Stanley says in the past couple of weeks, they've notice an increase in absenteeism, especially at area schools, linking directly to the flu.

Careful When Approaching Snow Plows

A timely safety campaign from the Ontario Provincial Police.

OPP are reminding motorists to slow down approaching a snow plow with its blue lights active.

Acting Sergeant Anne McCoy says while it is not illegal to pass a snow plow, attempts to pass could result in tragic ccircumstances.

McCoy says driving too fast and passing snow plows are among major causes of winter collisions.

Monday, November 26, 2012

High Demand For Help Expected

The Salvation Army in Fort Frances is anticipated requests for help this Christmas to be as large as ever.

Registration for its Christmas hampers took place last week.

Lieutenant Dennis Maybury says they're seeing a lot of faces at the doors they've never seen before or haven't needed the Salvation Army's help in some time.

Maybury says they'll be relying greatly on donations from the area to help meet the need.

Awareness For Salvation Army

A Confederation College student is doing his part to help the Salvation Army.

Joe Galbraith collected clothing on the weekend as part of a class project.

Galbraith says while the need is greatest during the winter, demand for the Salvation Army's services is year round.

Riverside Granted Accreditation

Riverside Health Care Facilities has earned Accreditation status for another four years.

It follows a review of operations by Accreditation Canada in October.

CEO Allan Katz says overall, Riverside came away with a 93.8 per cent rating.

Katz says surveyors were very complementary of Riverside's staff and the community for its financial support towards the Riverside Foundation.

Perfect Score Again

The Rainy River district has achieved a perfect score in an annual review of safety initiatives by Safe Communities Canada.

Administrator of Safe Communities Rainy River Grace Silander says credit goes to its partners in helping meet the criteria in the report card.

It's the sixth straight year the district has received perfect marks.

Town Asked To Put Off Rezoning

Town of Fort Frances is being asked to delay its decision to rezone the former Huffman School property.

A public meeting on that rezoning to permit the development of new housing lots takes place as part of tonight's council meeting.

Members of the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together and the Assisted Living Action Group want the town to hold off until their search for suitable sites for an assisted living facility is complete.

Parade of Lights Winners

Award winners from the Parade of Lights in Fort Frances have been announced.

St. Mary's Youth Group was the best among church and school groups.

 Duty Free America of  International Falls won for best business.

Fort Frances Mobilizers won the award for non-profit groups.

Bill Whiting won in the individual category.

The Nordic Ski Club won as the best recreational group.

International Falls Parade Winners

International Falls Chamber of Commerce staged its 'Twas the Lights Before Christmas parade Friday night.

The Gizzard Girls took first place honours for their float, "The Grinch Who Stole the Finish Line."

Wood Interiors took second spot with its "Manger Scene & Cross."

Falls High Student Council's "Charlie Brown Christmas" was the third place winner.

Honourable Mention went to Duty Free Americas for the "Nutcracker."

Question of the Week

Resolute Forest Products has indicated it will study the potential of producing alternative products at its soon to be idled Fort Frances operation.

Do you think the kraft mill and paper machine 5 will be restarted at a later date?

Let's us know on our website

In our previous question, 81 per cent of respondents believe the search to replace Premier Dalton McGuinty as Liberal leader is leading to a spring election.

NCDS Ready To Help

An area employment agency say its prepared to provide what ever assistance it can to assist employees at Resolute Forest Products effected by the indefinite idling of the kraft mill and a paper machine at the Fort Frances mill.

Jenny Greenhaulgh of NCDS says they've long expected to see many of those workers.

Greenhaulgh says a number of employees were already visiting, well before last Tuesday's announcement.

Biomass Contracts Awarded

There's some good news elsewhere for the region's forest industry.

The Ontario Power Authority has awarded two contracts for biomass for the Atikokan Generating Station.

Atikokan Renewable Fuels will supply 45-thousand tonnes of biomass wood pellets.

Resolute Forest Products will provide an additional 45-thousand tons.

The Authority says over 150 new jobs will be created through the wood pellet supply.

As part of that announcement, Resolute is spending $10-million to build a new wood pellet plant in Thunder Bay.

Construction will begin soon and open in 2014.

Christmas Kettles Need Bell Ringers

The Salvation Army in Fort Frances is seeking the public's support.

Lieutenant Dennis Maybury says they need volunteers for their Christmas Kettles set to go December 1.

Maybury says the time commitment can be as little as an hour or two.

Those who can assist are asked to contact the Salvation Army.

MPP Holds Holiday Collection Drive

MPP Sarah Campbell photo
A collection drive is being organized by Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell.

Campbell is setting up bins at locations throughout the riding for the collection food, clothes and toys that will go to specific organizations in each community.

Campbell says as an incentive and to promote local shopping, donors will be entered into a draw for a chance to win gift certificates to local businesses.

In the Rainy River district, those drop-off points are at the Royal Canadian Legion in Rainy River and at Campbell's constituency office in Fort Frances.

Cutest Pet

A 160 pound black Newfoundlander has been named the Cutest Holiday Pet in International Falls.

"Puller Express" owned by the Cummings family was a co-winner in the contest held Friday with a dog named "Flanders" owned by the Kossow family.

Nearly 20 dogs were entered in the first ever contest.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Teachers Begin Job Action

Elementary teachers with the Rainy River District School board have started a series of work-to-rule actions in their efforts to reach a new deal.

This after a Ministry of Labour conciliator issued a no-board report in their talks wih the board.

Local union president Trevor Bowles says focus for teachers will now only be on classroom instruction and ensuring the safety of students.

Some of the jobs action include teachers showing up for work 30 minutes before the start of school and leaving 30 minutes after classes end on Mondays and Tuesdays only.

They will also refrain from participating in extra-curricular activities on those days.

The teachers actions are more directed at the provincial government, they say has hindering local bargaining with the passage of Bill 115.

Kenora Man Seeks P.C. Nomination

Progressive Conservatives in Kenora-Rainy River are getting prepared for the next provincial election,some believe will happen next spring.

Randy Nickle, a prominent businessman in Kenora, says he's throwing his name into the hat to be the party's candidate.

The riding association intends to hold a nomination vote December 1.

Leadership Debate To Go In Thunder Bay

All of the Ontario Liberal Leadership hopefuls will be coming to northwestern Ontario next month.

Thunder Bay will be the site of one of several candidate debates.

It's scheduled for December 9, but a location has not yet been identified.

Residents wanting to participate are being asked to contact the local Liberal riding association.

Town Recognition Dinner Cancelled

Town of Fort Frances is canceling this year' dinner intended to recognize retiring employees, town volunteers and its citizen of the year.

The town says it's because of recent developments in the community, prior commitments by several of the honorees and a low response to the event in general.

It's now looking how at best to recognize individuals in a different way.

School Bus Cancellations

A school bus cancellation to pass on at this time.

The bus from Stanikoming First Nation driven by Desmond Jourdain won't be running today because of slippery road conditions

Hunt Numbers Down In Minnesota

Minnesota hunters killed 7 percent fewer deer this firearms season.

The Department of Natural Resources says the drop was expected.

The DNR increased the number of lottery areas where hunters had to have a permit to shoot a deer without antlers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Resolute Commited To Helping Workers

Resolute Forest Products says it will assist workers affected by the company's decision to idle, indefinitely, its kraft mill and a paper machine at its Fort Frances mill.

As many as 239 employees are expected to be laid-off by next February.

Spokesperson Pierre Choquette says they are hoping to mitigate the impact as best as they can.

Some employees may be eligible for early retirement packages while others may be offered employment at Resolute's other operations.

Production at the kraft mill and paper machine number 5 is expected to come to a halt by the end of this month.

Another paper machine and the biomass boiler are being maintained.

Union Disappointed By Idling

One of the unions representing workers at the Fort Frances mill is disappointed by Resolute Forest Products decision to idle, idefinitely, the kraft mill and a paper machine.

Steven Boon of the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union says employees were called on many times to help keep the mill competitive.

Boon feels the cancelling of a historic agreement for pulp by Boise in International Falls was a key factor in the shutdown of the kraft mill.

More Hope Of Continued Operations

Our elected officials continue to have discussions with Resolute Forest Products regarding its future plans for the Fort Frances mill.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell says company officials have told her they are working to protect both the mill's assets and outside contractors.

Campbell says no request for provincial assistance was asked at this time.

Campbell says she came away from her discussions with Resolute with some hope of a restart at a later date.

Blame Pointed At Feds For Closure Decision

Fingers are being pointed at the federal government for some of the reasons behind Resolute's closure decision.

In Ottawa, Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty says the government's commitment to the forest industry has been less than adequate.

 Rafferty says since the Conservatives took office more than 30,000 forestry jobs have been lost in northern Ontario alone.

Infrastructure and Communities Minister Denis Lebel says any difficulties within the industry remain  market related.

Job Actions Expected In Class Today

Elementary teachers across the Rainy River district are expected to begin today a series of work-to-rule job actions to back demands for a new contract.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario says it's received the no board report from a Ministry of Labour conciliator regarding its stalled negotiations with the Rainy River District School Board.

Jackie Dupuis-Brandli says blame for labour unrest is solely with the provincial government which is hamstringing local bargaining with the passage of Bill 115.