Don McArthur, the clerk-administrator for the Village of South River, finds a letter from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. (NOHFC) regarding the municipality's efforts to rehabilitate its former train station very encouraging.
During the early summer, the village applied to the NOHFC for $190,000 for its South River Train Station Rehabilitation Project.
McArthur says not only did the village receive documents from the NOHFC to move the application process to Stage 2, he said the government organization wanted the completed documents back by Oct. 13.
McArthur is a seasoned municipal worker and says the fact that the NOHFC specified a date for the completed documents to be returned is not normal.
He said the usual procedure would be for Stage 2 application documents to come to his attention by email.
“But they not only sent all the documents, they also put a fairly tight timeline on it,” McArthur said.
“That's good and they want it for a reason. I took this to be a very encouraging sign.”
The Regional Economic Development Branch of the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry has assigned Theo Noel de Tilly, team manager for the Sudbury and North Bay areas, to the South River file.
In response to a question from Coun. Teri Brandt, asking if it was normal to be assigned a specific person to a file, McArthur said yes but then reinforced his earlier comments, that receiving a government request to have Stage 2 documents back by a certain date was not normal.
McArthur told council he will make sure the NOHFC has those documents well before the mid-October deadline.
In the documentation to South River, the NOHFC says a ministerial advisor will be assigned to help the village develop its detailed project proposal.
The NOHFC has told South River that the train station project “is potentially eligible for further review and evaluation.”
However, the NOHFC also said that even though the application is moving forward, “it does not mean that it will be approved for funding.”
It further adds that not all projects that meet “the program eligibility criteria will be approved.”
The village hopes that rehabilitating the former train station improves its chances of seeing South River become one of 13 stops for a potential return of passenger rail service to Northern Ontario.
The station was once a site for Northlander passengers to get on or off the train as it made its northern and southern trips.
Although Northlander service ended in 2012 under the previous Liberal government, the train station in South River ceased to be a passenger stop many years before the service was cancelled.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget