The village of Burns Lake invited the CN representatives back for discussion over several concerns that the municipality and the community has over the railway’s operations in the region.
A special meeting hosted by the village was held on Mar. 16, and was attended by CN’s public affairs Manager Tyler Banick and Senior Officer of dangerous goods, Steven Santelli. The council and the staff discussed seven issues with the rail representatives from whistle cessation to dangerous goods’ passing through the community.
One of the first concerns that was presented to the CN representatives was over the “unsightly CN works yard” that is in the middle of the town. Mayor Dolores Funk mentioned that the village had been working to diversify the local economy and tourism played a huge part in that however, having this yard was a problem. The council asked the CN representatives if they had any plans on fencing or putting up privacy screening in place.
To this, Banick said that while there were no plans on fencing, the two trailers that were currently in the yard would be removed and the entire area would be cleared and moved to just one side on the other property owned by the CN. This, he believed would help solve the problem of the yard being an eye sore.
The council also had questions around the mud from the work yard that created a mess during spring on Highway (Hwy) 35, why CN was unwilling to stop in small communities to ensure imports and exports are delivered expediently and cost-effectively and if there was a way to eliminate the whistleblowing when the train goes through the town.
CN however, didn’t have any specific responses to these questions and Banick told the council that he would be able to put them in touch with people from the specific departments dealing with these issues.
The council was especially concerned about the dangerous goods being shipped through the town and the lack of support in the form of equipment or training from CN in case of a disaster.
Funk pointed out that in case of a disaster in town, the volunteer fire department wouldn’t even be able to respond as it would be directly in the line of danger from the disaster. Moreover, she said that fire department was made up of volunteers who “definitely don’t receive the training nor the pay” to justify having them deal with such disasters.
Senior Officer of dangerous goods, Steven Santelli took this question and said that while CN never wanted such an incident to ever happen, they were prepared for it and had spent a lot of time to know the locals and the municipalities.
At the end of this discussion however, there still was no solution over what would happen in case of a spill or an accident and how CN planned on responding with their equipment that was three hours away in Prince George.
”I trust that there will be further discussion when they bring the right people to the table,” said Funk later in an email to Lakes District News.
“Unfortunately, historically, discussions with CN regarding impacts of their operations on the communities they travel through, have not been fruitful. At this point, I don’t see that there is significant impetus for this corporation to change the way they operate,” said Funk. “That said, as rail traffic increases and the amount of dangerous goods being transported through our communities rise, we have a public responsibility to not give up. I believe that communities along the line are becoming ever more concerned regarding the risk levels that this growing activity implies and that a concerted effort of all levels of government and concerned citizens will be needed to see any changes from CN.”