Fort Frances council decides against selling Sunny Cove
The town of Fort Frances had an emotional discussion about what to do with the Sunny Cove property at a council meeting this week.
Administration had written a report asking council’s direction on the recommendation to prepare the property for sale to an entity that would, “operate the property into the future following suit with the historical uses of the property.”
Mayor Andrew Hallikas said there was a fair amount of debate on the pros and cons of selling it.
“Our CAO estimated that it would take at least a minimum of $500,000 to just kind of get started on the repairs that need to be done, maybe closer to $1 million to do a really good job of getting it ready to be open,” he said.
Hallikas said one reason to keep it would be that it could have some great potential for the town.
“Ultimately, council decided this was not the time to sell it,” he said.
“Sunny Cove is a very historic property. Many people over the years in our community have really fond recollections of the property. They went up there and stayed at summer camp, when they were young and recollections such as that are very poignant and it makes people actually, get emotional about the property.”
Hallikas said there was a frank exchange of views and nobody was upset with anybody else. But people spoke what was in their hearts and feelings and said what they thought would be best for the town. He said in the end council voted 5 to 2 in favour of defeating the motion to sell it.
The mayor said, for him, the cost of maintaining the property and its impact to the budget is what led to his dissenting vote.
“My personal concern is that we had a very difficult set of budget deliberations this year and we had to reach significantly into our reserves in order to move the community forward,” he said. “And I'm very worried about the next set of budget deliberations because our reserves, in my opinion are dangerously low.”
He said he agreed with the suggestion to sell it to a non-profit organization that could afford to operate the camp with the necessary repairs and continue to operate under the same or similar conditions that was put on the town when it took over the property in 2009. One restriction was that the camp must be used for certain things primarily for youth.
He said this way, the town essentially isn't losing its services.
What Hallikas wanted to ensure was that they wouldn’t get into a situation where they would jeopardize other services or incur a tax increase.
“It's a very, very difficult decision,” he said. “I can say that the town has wrestled with this for a number of years.”
Hallikas said it now goes back to administration to figure out next steps including applying for some government grants and figuring out where the municipality’s portion of the funding will come from.
“So my last comment to the CAO was, ‘you think about this and I'll think about it and we'll talk some more about it,’” he said.
Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source