Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gas Leak Forces Evacuations

Some anxious moments in International Falls.

A gas leak yesterday afternoon forced the evacuation of residents at River's Edge Villa, and some nearby businesses.

Fire Chief Jerry Jenson says a 3 inch hole was cut in a gas line by a front-end loader working in the area of the new sewage treatment plant.

Traffic in the area was also halted until the gas could be shut off.

No one was injured.

Community Garden In Falls

International Falls city council has given the go-head for a community garden.

Rachel Amdahl of Community Education says a grant from the Northland Foundation will help in its development.

Twelve plots are proposed for land directly across from the Falls Public Library.

Riverside Awaits More Information On Sprinkler Mandate

Riverside Health Care Facilities says it will be watching for more details on the province's plans to mandate sprinklers in all homes for seniors and people with disabilities.

Premier Kathleen Wynne says legislation will be unveiled next week.

Rainycrest Long Term Care in Fort Frances currently has no sprinklers.

Riverside Chief Administrative Officer Allan Katz says they're be awaiting further direction including what financial support will be available to meet the requirements.

MNR Feeling Better Following Budget

Fears of Ministry of Natural Resources offices closing in northern Ontario may have been eased a little.

The provincial budget shows a slight increase in spending for the MNR.

Minister David Orazietti says there's still some challenges faced, but the budget is positive compared to what was proposed last year with far less than anticipated pressures to reduce staff and the impacts to the Ministry.

Orazietti feels the budget reaches a good balance that supports the MNR in a stable way for the next several years.

NDP Discuss Budget Today

The NDP caucus meets today and will debate whether or not to support the budget or join with the Progressive Conservatives to defeat the government.

Leader Andrea Horwath says people are swamping a hotline and a website the party set up to gather feedback.

Trustee Elected To Provincial Board

A Fort Frances trustee is back as a regional director to the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association.

Anne-Marie Fitzgerald was elected as a director for region 3 for a third term at the Association's meeting in Toronto on the weekend.

Fitzgerald is chair of the Northwest Catholic District School Board.

Customer Service Workshops Today

Customer service is the focus of workshops taking place in International Falls and Fort Frances today.

Falls Chamber president Faye Whitbeck says participants will hear from Ted Schick of Schick Corporate Learning.

The workshops are a joint initiative between the Rainy River Future Development Corporation, Koochiching Economic Development Authority and local Chambers of Commerce.

Visitor Centre Hours Changed

Mandatory budget cuts brought upon by the U.S. government have forced Voyageurs National Park to alter the hours at its visitor centre at Rainy Lake.

The Centre will open Tuesday to Saturday, 9 to 5, closing Sunday and Monday, this summer.

Centres at Kabetogama and Ash River don't open until May 25.

Another GOP Nominee In Race

A Republican rooted in Minnesota politics for a dozen years is the latest to announce a 2014 challenge to Democratic Governor  Mark Dayton.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson kicked off his campaign yesterday, saying his focus would be on education policy, tax rates and streamlining government.

He joins businessman Scott Honour in vying for the GOP nomination.

Thunder Bay Housing Evacuees

Thunder Bay is hosting 150 evacuees from Kashechewan First Nation.

They flew into the City over the weekend after flooding conditions near their community forced a State of Emergency.

A total 240 residents have been evacuated due to a rapid snow melt that overwhelmed the community's sewer system and left 40 residences without heat or power.

Chamber Remaining Positive

International Falls Chamber of Commerce is reacting to last week's announcement at the Falls major employer.

Boise is closing down two paper machines and an off-machine coater, laying off 265 employees by October.

The Chamber's Faye Whitbeck sees it impacting everyone in some way.

Whitbeck says it's now important that developments on the radar for some time be accelerated to help offset the pending job loss.

Ontario Metis Watch Two Court Cases

Ontario Metis are watching with great interest how the federal government is reacting to a couple of court cases favouring Metis people.

One recognizes Métis being under federal jurisdiction the same way as  First Nations.

Metis Nation of Ontario president Gary Lipinski says it's disappointing the feds still wants to fight it.

Lipinski foresees the case dragging all the way to the Supreme Court.

The other case involves a land claims issue in Manitoba.

Lipinski says the ruling is only a first step towards the feds setting up a process that deals with Metis land claims issues across the country.

Contestant To Try Again

No crown this year, but a Fort Frances teen who competed at this Miss Northern Ontario pageant in Sudbury on the weekend is hoping to return.

17-year-old Emily Hyatt was among 43 girls challenging for the title.

In a post following the event, Hyatt states she plans to do more fundraising for an unnamed charity and is hoping to be part of the Emo Fair Queen activities this summer.

Education Celebration

 Education is in the spotlight this week.

The Northwest Catholic District School Board is celebrating "Catholic Education Week."

Director of Education Mary-Catherine Kelly says the public is encouraged to get involved.

A variety of events are planned at schools across the district.

This is also education week in the province.

Schools within the Rainy River District School Board will be celebrate the week's theme, "moving from great to excellent in education," through a variety of events as well.

Budget Reaction

The Provincial budget is getting some mixed reactions.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell says it is a bit concerning given that it increases spending by $2-billion dollars.

Campbell adds there's also little mention about the Ring of Fire or mining in northwestern Ontario.
Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro says the budget may not specifically target the Ring of Fire, but does address some mining industry needs.

Mauro sites the continuation of the northern electricity rate program

Spending by the Ministry of Natural Resources is up slightly, while Northern Development and Mines budget shows a 50-million dollar drop over last year.

The Ontario Health Coalition says the province's budget will hurt health care.

Director Natalie Mehra says hospitals across the region won't see any increase, which could mean further cuts to beds and services.

Mehra says while there is an increase in home care funding, on a per-patient basis it translate into a significant drop.