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Town needs to work on its appearance

Letter to the Editor,

Mayor Ewald reports 2015 was a very productive year for Rainy River (Mayor reflects on busy 2015 and forward to 2016, RRR Jan. 12, 2016).
Indeed, 2015 was a very busy year for the town. It was so busy, for example, Town maintenance staff had no time to deal with the signage blight at the east entrance to the town. This includes the second older and redundant Welcome to Rainy River sign that should have been removed when the new one was put up. When it blew down in mid-summer of 2015, even then the Town apparently was preoccupied by other things and failed to remove it. There it sits to this day in the tall grass and weeds, along with the other decrepit looking signs, for all highway travellers to see.
Because of this deplorable signage situation, I’m sure the impression of travellers entering the town from the east is that it’s likely not worth visiting. Certainly, the Town shows no respect towards these people. Despite the Welcome to Rainy River sign, when they see this mess, they likely consider it meaningless.
Interestingly at this site, the large sign advertising a Rainy River business that burned down more than 10 years was painted white this summer. This seems to be a peculiar Rainy River phenomenon, since another sign the Town should have removed several years ago has also been painted white.
Apparently this is done to lessen their negative visual appearance, so they don’t have to be eliminated.
But it doesn’t work, since the signage clutter isn’t diminished.
In 2015 the Town didn’t complete the planting of the flower bed at Heritage Square. It planted only one row of flowers on the perimeter of it. I’m not sure what happened. Didn’t the Town have enough money to buy more flowers to complete the job? Or did more important things suddenly come up that required the Town’s attention, and it became too busy to finish the job? Regardless, hopefully in 2016
Rainy River won’t have the distinction of again probably having the worst looking public flower bed in the country. It certainly had the worst looking one in 2014. Of course, that year was also a very busy one for the town with the river flooding in June. An hour couldn’t be found to plant the flower bed until July, which by then was full of weeds, and another hour couldn’t be found during the rest of the summer to weed it.
By the way in 2014, shortly after I moved here in April, I offered to maintain this flower bed (as a horticulturist I know a few things about growing flowers). However, the Town didn’t respond to me, as it didn’t to several more of my communications to it that year. In 2015 it also generally didn’t respond to my communications to it. And 2016 isn’t looking too good either; no response to my communications to the Town in January.
In appears the Town doesn’t have the courtesy to inform residents it generally doesn’t respond to questions, complaints, suggestions for improvements, and volunteering for it (all of which I have done). Mayor Ewald needs to explain what she said in her 2014 inaugural speech.
“We challenge residents to join boards or volunteer their time or expertise to make a great place to live and play. If everyone of our citizens would volunteer their time for one event or committee throughout the year, the effort would be successful.”
Didn’t she mean what she said? Apparently she didn’t.
When I moved here, I immediately noted the Town hadn’t provide maintenance to its sidewalks for many years. Several sections of them were and still are literally rubble or are overgrown with weeds and grass. In 2015 it failed again to remove the sand and debris from the sidewalks from the previous winter. Obviously, the Town is too busy to care how the unattractive sidewalks significantly adds to the shabby appearance of the town. It goes without saying, it’s also too busy to care for the safety of people, especially seniors, who are more prone to having falls.
The Town apparently is too busy to remove several unused culverts in its ditches and trees blocking working ones. It’s seems it’s also too busy to level several obsolete stormwater drainage ditches, so trees could be planted on them to beautify the town. Of course, the Town is likely too busy to do extensive tree planting, so what would be the point of doing that?
The Town doesn’t enforce its property standards bylaw to improve its shabby appearance, and it appears it has never done this. Why? Is it too busy to do it?
In 2015, I complained to town council that its meetings aren’t posted on line shortly after they are held. I know what you are saying. It can’t be too busy to do this basic thing for residents. No, come on!
Sorry, but it is. It generally takes several months before it happens.
What about an agenda posted online for these meetings, so that residents can know ahead of time what will take place at them? Alas, it’s not likely to happen. If the Town is too busy to post council meetings online in a timely manner, then obviously it’s too busy to post an agenda. This isn’t Atikokan or Baudette, for example, which posts an agenda and then also posts town council meetings online within a couple of days after they are held.! Unlike these towns, this is a very busy one!
Mayor Ewald said about Town maintenance staff: “They work hard and get so much done it is hard to believe there are only four of them!” I seriously question this, because the evidence seen throughout the town indicates this isn’t true. And the primary reason for this unacceptable situation is the Town’s mismanagement of the community, which obviously has gone on for many years.
The mayor said residents can expect 2016 to be another busy year for the the town. Rather than a busy year, mayor, how about a more productive one that addresses several major problems that need remediation? And also a year when town council begins to behave professionally by respecting residents and representing their interests.
–Paul G. Olsen
Rainy River