Construction of a new school, new internet infrastructure and completion of road, water and sewer upgrades are high on the list of things to look forward to in the town of Rainy River this year, Mayor Deb Ewald says.
In hindsight Ewald says 2021 was a good year in many respects. The town received funding for upgrades to its aging water and sewer system and that work was started on upgrading Second St. in the town.
“We’ve been really fortunate to get funding from both levels of government to replace those water and sewer lines,” Ewald said. “Because there are health and safety issues of course down the road.”
Ewald said the work they hoped to have done by the end of the season last year couldn’t be completed because of supply issues caused by the pandemic.
“In the spring they will do the last block of Second St. and then replace the sidewalks and paving,” Ewald said. “So we’re looking forward to that, and we also applied to have Third St. done, which will, in essence, be the last main road in the town to be rehabilitated.”
The age of the water and sewer in the town is a significant concern.
“We have 116 year-old pipes in the ground and they’re definitely in need of replacement,” Ewald said.
Ewald is also hopeful for the border with the United States to reopen to normal activity soon, as the town shares amenities with the neighbouring town of Baudette, MN, and it also makes travel to larger Canadian cities like Winnipeg easier.
“The border, when it’s open, is a good thing,” Ewald said. “Because we share a lot of things with Baudette. They have a pool and we don’t, but we’re able to use their pool. Also, most people from here go through the United States and on to Winnipeg. It only takes three hours one one way on a trip when the border is open. It’s not quite as congested as it is to travel through the [route] 71 onto the Trans Canada through to Winnipeg. Especially the way it’s been this year, it’s been a little scary actually.”
Another anticipated project for the new year is the installation of fibre-optic broadband internet throughout the town. Ewald says the current internet availability in town is not very good so they are working with Celerity Telecom to have high-speed internet available everywhere. After the work is complete, Ewald believes they can better attract more families to the town.
According to Ewald the COVID-19 pandemic has made working from home more of a possibility than ever.
“One thing that COVID has brought forward is how versatile people can be,” Ewald said. “So we’d kind of like to capture that.”
“Our plan is to really advertise and promote the area for people to move here,” Ewald said. “Down in southern Ontario people can sell houses for considerably more than what they cost here. You could come here, build a brand new house for a fraction, and still put quite a bit of money in the bank.”
Another thing Rainy River is looking forward to in 2022 is the start of construction on a new Kindergarten to grade 12 school which Ewald hopes will only make the town more attractive.
Ewald is hopeful projects can be completed as a fall election comes up.
“Looking forward, our big thing is to secure funding for Third St. and basically just tidy up,” Ewald said. “Because this is an election year and you don’t know how many of your councilors are coming back. You just want to tidy the little things up and make sure everything’s left in a good state when the next council takes over.”