Rainy River mayor hoping to continue progress

Sam Odrowski

The Town of Rainy River started several projects in 2018 and Mayor Deb Ewald said her main goals for this year are seeing them through.
“We’re continuing with our infrastructure,” she remarked last week. “We replaced the water line on the highway on Atwood Avenue and then we also got funding to do Fifth Street.”
The work on Atwood basically is complete, with paving scheduled for the spring.
“I’m hoping that we’ll finish up the projects that we’ve started this year and then secure funding for the next streets that we’ve got slated to do,” Mayor Ewald noted.
“Every year that we can get funding from the government to go ahead with a street, it helps us out a lot.”
When she first took office as mayor more than 12 years ago, the town’s water and sewer lines under the roads were roughly 115 years old.
“That’s a long time and it’s a health and safety issue because they’re failing,” Mayor Ewald stressed.
“There’s no doubt about it.”
She is happy that almost all of the town’s sewer/water line infrastructure has been replaced, adding that over the last three terms, council has been successful in planning for the future.
“We’re moving to being more proactive than reactive, and that’s a good thing for the community,” Mayor Ewald enthused.
“When you’re always behind the eight ball, it’s like you’re always fighting a battle it seems.”
She conceded there still are battles when planning for the future, but there are a lot less now than when she first took office.
Mayor Ewald has a positive outlook for 2019 and said things are going well working with the new council that was elected back in October.
“The new council and everybody is getting up to speed,” she remarked. “We actually had our first committee of the whole meeting last [Monday].
“It was good,” she added. “Everybody’s happy and working hard.
“That’s what you want to see.
There are four new councillors on board and they’re currently getting into planning, understanding where the town is currently and where it needs to be.
Mayor Ewald is excited about the new faces on council and said they have been keen in fulfilling their roles.
She added there’s a good mix of both older and younger councillors.
“Most them are younger, which is really nice to see because they’re going to be the future of our community,” Mayor Ewald reasoned.
“You want them to be the future leaders.”
As for economic planning in 2019, Mayor Ewald said she is feeling hopeful since receiving funding to hire an economic development officer to be shared between Rainy River and the townships of Lake of the Woods and Dawson.
The town currently is looking to find someone to fill the position.
“We’re just waiting to see how that all plays out,” Mayor Ewald said.
“It will be nice to have someone who’s dedicated working for the west end of the district.”
An increase in people moving to Rainy River has helped the town thrive and will help to create more economic opportunities going forward, Mayor Ewald noted.
“We’re fortunate that we’re finding there’s more people moving in,” she remarked.
“We got a bus coming from New Gold now, which I think has made a big difference for people moving here.”
The New Gold mine north of Barwick has been great for the district, with just about every municipality benefitting with the exception of Atikokan, Mayor Ewald said.
“For a long time, the northwest has been losing population and a lot of other things, so it’s kind of nice to see a little bit of a turnaround,” she enthused.
Overall, she said Rainy River is on an “upswing,” especially in terms of population and town improvements.
Still, Rainy River is heavily-dependent on government funding and with the new provincial government in place, Mayor Ewald conceded nothing is guaranteed.
“It’s hard to say how things are going to go but we hope that they will stay [the same], especially for the infrastructure projects because those are the big-ticket items,” she explained.
“As long as those funding source remain pretty stable, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
When looking at the town’s facilities, Mayor Ewald said the rec centre will need replacing in the near future.
“We’re hopefully going to get funding for a feasibility study to build like a hub and then go forward with fundraising for that project,” she explained.
She also hopes to establish plans for improvements to Hannam Park in the coming months.
“We’re just looking at upgrading the equipment and we have a couple of funding opportunities that we’re pursuing,” she noted.
“That’s still very preliminary.”
As well, Rainy River will be looking at some beautifications projects to “spruce up the town.”
“We’re trying to make the town more appealing for people to come and visit,” Mayor Ewald said.
While securing grants, funding projects, and then completing them does take a long time, the mayor is hopeful about Rainy River’s future.
“There’s issues with every town but right now we’re actually in a pretty positive situation,” she remarked.
Moving forward, Mayor Ewald hopes to work together with neighbouring municipalities for the good of the district.
“The important thing is that we keep working together for the betterment of everybody because where one goes, we all go,” she stressed.
“We’re stronger when we’re working together.”