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Possible senior centre relocation petitioned

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The Fort Frances Senior Centre Board of Management is currently consulting with the public to determine if it should be kept in its current location or moved to the recently closed Fort Frances Daycare Centre.

Allan Bedard, who's a user of the facility also known as the Sister Kennedy Centre, started a petition in April stating the centre should remain at 401 Nelson St. has since garnered 350 names in support.

He said many of the individuals who use the centre are quite happy with its location and don't want to be “isolated” at the Fort Frances Daycare, on 1150 Portage Avenue, in the north end of town.

“They're right in the centre of the town where they're close to the hospital, close to the clinic, close to churches and close to the downtown shopping core. The facility, for the people who are using it, is adequate,” Bedard said.

Although, according to feedback from 78 surveyed individuals at the seniors' fair held at the Sister Kennedy Centre in June, just under half cited location as one of its positive aspects.

When asked about the size of the facility, many felt it was too small, had poor acoustics, and minimal parking.

Many respondents said they would like to see more programming but understand it isn't possible due to size constraints.

“The need for a larger facility has been identified,” said Coun. Wendy Brunetta, Fort Frances Senior Centre Board of Management committee member.

"We just felt whenever people were trying to run two activities, it was very disruptive.

“In addition, the acoustics is quite bad in the centre of the building because of the high ceilings and we have aging individuals with hearing difficulties already,” she added.

At an open house for senior centre users hosted at the Fort Frances Daycare this past Saturday, Coun. Brunetta said there was a great level of attendance and a mixture of perspectives on whether the facility should be moved.

“We definitely had a group who were opposed [to moving], and some of them actually felt that after seeing the facility and its potential, it gave them some insight into what could be for the seniors' facility,” she explained.

“Some of them went away feeling a little more positive about the possibility.”

The only negative comment Coun. Brunetta heard in regards to the centre was location, although many attendees indicated that they drive there, so their commute is the same whether it's in the north end or downtown area.

She stressed that no decision has been made regarding the senior centre relocating, as it's still in a consultation period and the Fort Frances Senior Centre Board of Management is collecting input from the public.

“It's an opportunity that has come up that we are obligated to examine and we just want to get all the facts before we make a decision,” Coun. Brunetta noted.

After the board makes a recommendation to council regarding the centre and a decision is made, ether location will need renovations to better accommodate its users.

In terms of building a new room onto the current centre, the cost is approximately $400,000, while a cost estimate for renovations at the Fort Frances Daycare have not yet been complete.

“Whether we stay in our current facility, we need to look at some sort of expansion or making it bigger and we're pretty limited where we are currently in terms of expanding.”

Parking currently poses a challenge and while the Fort France Daycare only has a few more spaces than the Sister Kennedy Centre it is easier to do an expansion because of its location.

“The other thing that we're going to have to look at is that a larger building will require some additional costs, so how are we as a board going to offset those costs?” Brunetta said.

“We still have to do a fair bit of homework in terms of both locations to determine what our final recommendation to council will be.”

Council has not yet discussed any plans for the Fort Frances Senior Centre because no decision has yet been made on whether it will be relocated.

Meanwhile, the petition against the relocation of the centre has been received by the Fort Frances Senior Centre Board of Management and submitted to the town's clerk who will be determine if it meets the criteria for a petition under the Municipal Act.

If the petition is valid, it will be discussed at the board's next meeting in early November.

“I'm just hoping people keep an open mind,” Coun. Brunetta remarked.

"The board's main objective is to have a facility that is welcoming and conducive to encouraging fellowship with seniors and that's what our main goal is.

“We're just looking at what's best for the entire community.”

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