EMBRUN – The township of Russell’s Train Station Committee recently presented the municipality’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) with suggestions that could save the facility, while also turning it into a vital part of the community.

“Our goal is the same as it was in the first presentation we did in November,” Train Station committee president Israel Michaud said. “We want to transform the train station into something that we can be proud of, that we can display with dignity and respect.”

The virtual meeting was held Jan. 31 and included a slide presentation by Michaud and Train Station Committee member Hélène Grandmaître. Presented in both official languages, the presentation detailed the changes that have been made to the proposal since the committee’s last presentation in November 2021. PRAC members voted in favour of supporting the Train Station Committee’s request to keep the station, proceed with phase one, and to transfer 2021 train station funds to 2022 for use in phase one.

“Since the last presentation, we’ve done additional consultations with potential suppliers and business partners. We’ve also had a look at the streetscape consultant report and found synergy with our proposition for the train station; so, things like the incorporation of destination points, the wayfinding signage for the recreational trail,” Michaud said. “We incorporated feedback that we received in November from you guys to adjust our proposal. We’ve adjusted the first phase on keeping the station and embellishing, and we’ve included a more robust financial roadmap.”

Michaud said the committee has received a $1,000 donation, as well as several support letters from the community. He said the group is very pleased with the community response, adding that almost everyone they’ve spoken to has been willing to help in some way.

The proposal was broken down into two phases. In phase one, the plan is to keep the station, do repairs, and highlight the exterior. The group provided a cost breakdown for this phase amounting to roughly $11,555. Phase two focuses on structural repairs and interior use with an estimated price tag of roughly $57,200. Following phase two repairs, the committee noted several potential uses, such as an Embrun Museum, local farmers’ market, tourist centre, or possibly a revenue-generating commercial project.

“I think the first stage sounds like it’s very doable,” Coun. Mike Tarnowski said. “But one of the things that us at council are going to have to worry about is, what do we do with that building? I know in your PowerPoint you’ve proposed a few ideas that are there, but I just wanted to know if there was anything more concrete.”

The Train Station Committee asked PRAC to recommend approval of the proposal to the township’s council. The request to council included confirmation that the train station can remain in Embrun, that the budget allocated to the train station in 2021 remain allocated to the project, and that council provide 50 per cent of the proposed first phase expenses to support the effort this spring.

“I’m 100 per cent in supporting to keep it and having some work done on it,” Coun. André Brisson said, noting that he would move some of the phase one plans to phase two.

By the end of the discussion, PRAC members agreed to approve phase one, as it’s seen as low risk. They suggested the Train Station Committee take the time to create and come back with a more structured idea, including how to make the idea happen. It was also noted that should the building be turned into a museum, there would need to be volunteers to run the facility.

“I’ll read what I think could work here,” Tarnowski said. “That the committee receives the presentation and recommends to council the following: one, that council agree to keep the train station in our municipality; two, that the 2021 funds put aside for the train station be transferred to 2022; and three, that council approve phase one of the proposed plan and that township funds come from the newly transferred funds.”

PRAC committee members voted unanimously in favour of this recommendation, as read by Tarnwoski. A copy of the slide presentation can be found in the PRAC agenda. Those interested in viewing the meeting can find the link on the municipality’s calendar page for that event. The roughly two-hour meeting included discussions on pandemic updates, capital projects for 2022, recreation complex updates, Camille Piché Community Centre, Jonathan Pitre Park, encroachment report, and more.