Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fredericton Station meeting report

I was pleased to attend last night's meeting, organized by the Fredericton Friends of the Railway Inc., to discuss what to do with the Fredericton train station. All levels of government were represented, as well as J.D. Irving and of course the Fredericton Friends (FFotR).

Tim Scammell, acting president of the FFotR, drafted me into taking the minutes, so I have quite a good record of what was discussed. Once the minutes are reviewed, I hope to post them here to help you get to sleep for your reading pleasure. For now, I will summarize.

The room had quite a few chairs in the middle, with a couple of tables and a podium at the front, and a few tables to the side for the press. The people seated at the tables in the front were, from left to right:
Greg Byrne, MLA
Patrick Lacroix, on behalf of J.D. Irving
Mary Keith, on behalf of J.D. Irving
Brad Woodside, Mayor of Fredericton
Tim Scammell, FFotR
Andrew Holland, on behalf of Andy Scott, MP
Rick Miles, MLA
Michel Audy, Executive Secretary, Historic Sites & Monuments Board of Canada

There were about 50-55 people in the audience.

Tim kicked the meeting off at 7:30 by introducing everyone, and stresssing that this was an informational meeting, not a confrontational one. He emphasized everyone was there to find solutions, and to overlook what had happened in the past and instead focus on the future of the station.

Mary Keith, VP of Communications for J.D. Irving, represented her company well. She described the history of the station from 1995, when JDI took control of the Canadian Pacific properties in New Brunswick including the Fredericton station. Between her description and others, some details about the previous deals that fell through came to light.

As far as I can tell, these were the possible deals:
- 2000: Plan for JDI to build an office building where the old elevator was, and use the station as a call center for CIBC.
- ????: Plan for local businessman to purchase station (only), turn it into the York Street Station with a restaurant and two passenger cars. Fell through because JDI wanted to sell land and station as one package.
- ????: Retirement community plan.
- ????: Offer by one individual to purchase station for $1.
- 2007: Recent opportunity, probably not coming to fruition

Ms. Keith said the engineers and architects had a look at the station last Friday and are preparing a report, possibly completed by the end of this week. It is important to note she did not commit to repairing the station, despite repeated questions. She deferred to the report.

Michel Audy of Historic Sites & Monuments Board of Canada described the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act and provided valuable insight into what the Act can and cannot do. He said the Act protects against action by the owners, not inaction.

Both Greg Byrne and Rick Miles gave strong support for the station.

Mayor Woodside expressed his extreme frustration and disappointment with the process to date.

The meeting wrapped up at just before 9 PM, and I left after speaking to a few members of the panel.

The general consensus is that the station needs to be stabilized, to buy some time to get plans together to restore the station. The station needs a commercial anchor tenant to ensure its future.

I want to thank everyone who came, both the distinguished guests on the panel and the audience at large. Many good questions were raised, and most were answered well.

Most of all, I want to thank Tim Scammell for pulling this together. You done good.

Media coverage was pretty good. The Daily Gleaner had a front page article on it. Radio stations Fred FM and KHJ also had coverage, as did Fox. Oddly CBC has nothing on their web site, despite interviewing Tim Scammell.


Blogger Charles LeBlanc said...




Canadian Train Geek said...

Oh, sorry! Infamous Fredericton blogger Charles Leblanc was there, taking way too many pictures. ;)