The Fort Frances Senior Centre wants to put a persistent rumour to rest.
The board held their monthly meeting at the former Sister Kennedy Centre yesterday and addressed hearsay that the town was planning to shut down the senior centre and move operations to the site of the current Fort Frances Day Care Centre.
“We have no plans,” said board chair Coun. Wendy Brunetta.
“We don't have a plan to move and we don't have a plan to do anything with this building,” she added.
The rumour appears to be connected to a letter received by town council at its March 25 meeting in which the board of the Fort Frances Senior Centre expressed their interest in the day care building.
“In February . . . we learned from District Social Services Administration Board (DSSAB) officially that daycare was going to come out of the hands of the municipality and be taken over by DSSAB,” said board member Coun. John McTaggart.
“At that point we realized that we're going to have a building come surplus, the day care centre,” he added.
Coun. Brunetta explained the reason the board had expressed an interest in a new property with the town was not because a move was imminent, but rather because they had identified a few areas that needed to be addressed with the current building and were looking at all of their options—no matter how far in the future they could be.
“The former board of management . . . identified a number of deficiencies with our current facility, those being parking and space,” Coun. Brunetta said.
“It's our responsibility to investigate these issues and develop proposed solutions," she added. "One solution may include staying at our current location and finding resolution to these issues, and a second solution may be to search for a facility where these deficiencies are rectified.”
Coun. Brunetta said the day care building made sense to consider if it was determined that a new location for the senior centre was required, as it's already town property.
“But let me be clear: This is only one option and there's been no firm decision to relocate this facility,” she stressed.
Mayor June Caul, who also sits on the Fort Frances Senior Centre board, said she understood those at the meeting for whom the Sister Kennedy Centre held a special place in their hearts but noted that the needs of people using the centre may have outgrown the size of the building.
“I feel badly for the pool guys because they come in here [from the pool room] to sit and have coffee, we ask them to be quiet because the people can't hear us call out the Bingo,” Mayor Caul said.
“I know that Tai Chi has asked people who are just sitting and having coffee if they could tone their voices down because they're all in the same room,” she added.
Mayor Caul also said that one of the suggestions she's heard from people at the centre,—namely to stay at the current location and add another room—isn't as easily done as said.
“We took it to our planner as a thought, 'What would happen if we did add on?'” Mayor Caul said.
“It would cost us at least $400,000 to add on by the time you get heating and electricity and walls and flooring and everything that you would need,” she explained.
Some people attending the meeting said that they didn't see the need for anything to change at the senior centre. Others in attendance brought up that the current building is in a more accessible area of town than the day care centre, and that the town-owned lot behind St. Mary's Church might be repurposed for use by the senior centre.
Coun. Brunetta assured those at the meeting that in the event the board eventually did begin to consider any new addition or moving a new location, every effort would be taken to determine what the best course of action would be for all involved, including a survey to gather the opinions of those who frequent the centre.
Community Services manager Jason Kabel also addressed a rumour that an unnamed party was interested in buying the senior centre, telling the attendees that he has “never heard a conversation of someone being interested in this building.”
The Fort Frances Senior Centre has been a part of the community for decades, and it is easy to see that it holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many of the people who frequent it.
But while Mayor Caul said that the board is always thinking about ways to improve the centre for the people who use it, and that change of some kind could be somewhere in the future, she stressed that the rumours of its imminent demise or move across town were just that—rumours.
“Please, again, everyone. This is just a beginning thought, and it's not a thought that 'we're going to move over there,'” Mayor Caul remarked.
“It's a thought that, 'Could we add on, should we add on, can we move over there, should we stay here?' and that's all it is right now. It's nothing more than that,” she added.