Rainy River council adapting well

Sam Odrowski

Rainy River’s new council was sworn in a little over a year ago and the town’s mayor, Deb Ewald, said the four new faces have been successful in adapting to their roles.

“They’ve done really well. Whenever there’s a new council, it’s a big learning curve . . . but they’re getting a good handle on it,” Mayor Ewald noted.

Some of the biggest accomplishments for Rainy River’s council in 2019 was replacing sewer and water lines along Fifth Street and Atwood Avenue.

With the assistance of government funding, the town has also hired an economic development officer for three years in partnership with the Lake of the Woods and Dawson townships.

Mayor Ewald said generally when they apply for an economic development officer, it’s a one year position, so she’s hoping the three year funding will produce better outcomes for Rainy River.

“We’re hoping that we can simulate more economic opportunities at the far west end of the district,” Mayor Ewald explained.

Another high point for Rainy River this year has been getting a bus service to New Gold for those who work at the mine.

Mayor Ewald said there’s been an overall increase in people employed there and some of them are moving to Rainy River, which has helped the economy and housing market.

“It’s actually been quite a positive year,” she enthused.

Some of the challenges Rainy River continues to face is its small population of just over 800 people which creates a low tax base.

“We depend a lot on government funding, like the alt funding and the accessibility of grants for projects,” Mayor Ewald noted.

“We just don’t have the reserves to do this stuff on our own, so we’re quite appreciative of any help that we get from either the provincial or federal governments, or any projects that they’re willing to cover.”

While the town still has to pay for a share of any projects assisted by government funding, Mayor Ewald said the burden for municipalities has declined over the last several years.

She told the Times a basic street in Rainy River, which is approximately three blocks long, would easily cost $2-million, so if the municipality only has to provide 10 percent–which would be $200,000–it’s less strenuous on the town.

“It really helps when you’re doing so many projects at such high costs,” Mayor Ewald remarked.

Looking ahead to 2020, the township is hopeful it can secure some water and waste water funding which was announced by the government last month.

Through the capital budget Rainy River is also looking to do some upgrades to their water treatment plant, depending on what government funding is available, Mayor Ewald noted.

The recreation centre and curling rink are two aging facilities in the town and will be assessed going forward, as well.

“To have a vibrant community you need those facilities, so we are applying to the rec and culture grant [program] to start the process for looking at a new arena complex,” Mayor Ewald reasoned.

Creating community hubs has also been the government’s focus, so creating a facility that houses the curling rink and recreation centre as well as the local library and town office, will be looked at by the town.

“We have plans that we’re working on as money becomes available,” she explained.

Meanwhile, the international Rainy River/Baudette bridge is nearing completion and the project will be wrapped up in 2020.

The old bridge, which will be demolished next year, had height restrictions which prevented certain truck traffic from using the border crossing as a port of entry.

“It was a problem, so hopefully it will bring more people and more business this way, too,” Mayor Ewald noted.

She said she’s looking forward to the next three years of the current term with council.

“They are young but I think they are all keen and interested and they’re very approachable,” Mayor Ewald lauded.

“I think they’re doing a very good job and I think people should be proud of them that they stepped up.”