September 6, 2013

Aid effort continues for town in Quebec

Organizers in Farmington plan an Oct. 12 fundraiser for Lac-Megantic, their partner across the border.

By KAITLIN SCHROEDER Morning Sentinel

The mayor and the police chief of Lac-Megantic will be among those attending a fundraiser Oct. 12 in Farmington on behalf of the devastated Quebec town.

Local bands plan to perform a concert at the University of Maine at Farmington, and organizers plan to honor the Franklin County firefighters who went to Lac-Megantic the day of the train derailment and explosion that killed 47 people, displaced 2,000 others and destroyed dozens of buildings in the town.

The two organizers, Farmington Selectman Ryan Morgan and Wilton Selectman Tom Saviello, visited Lac-Megantic Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche after the disaster as part of a five-person delegation from Maine.

It is important for Franklin County residents to realize that railways run through the county and that the disaster could have struck their own town, according to Saviello, who is also a state senator.

He said residents can picture the magnitude of the devastation by comparing Lac-Megantic to its partner community, Farmington, Lac-Megantic has about 6,000 residents; Farmington, about 7,000.

"It would be like all of a sudden 2,000 residents in Farmington couldn't go home," he said.

Saviello said it's been tricky to communicate across the language barrier and distance, but he has been coordinating efforts through the English-speaking mayor of Frontenac, which is near Lac-Megantic.

He said he and Morgan are coordinating with Farmington-area French-speakers to help translate for the event.

The benefit concert is part of an ongoing effort in Farmington to raise money for its partner community.

The fundraising work began July 10, four days after the train derailment, when Farmington selectmen voted to open the Lac-Megantic Relief Fund at TD Bank.

Selectmen in Wilton and Farmington each voted to donate $500 in town money to the relief fund. Morgan said the account has grown to more than $30,000.

Morgan said Farmington has been particularly driven to reach out to Lac-Megantic because the two towns formed a partnership 22 years ago to share culture and economic growth.

Delegations from Farmington occasionally have visited the Quebec town 93 miles away since the beginning of the partnership.

For admission to the event, attendees can buy a wristband that says "Lac-Megantic" for $10 before the event or $15 at the door. Morgan said the locations where the wristbands will be available for purchase have not been determined yet.

Saviello said UMF is donating the space, the bands are donating their time and he and Morgan are using some of their own money to pay for remaining upfront expenses.

Daniel Deveau, Gov. Paul LePage's ombudsman for Canadian relations, plans to attend the event and read a letter of support on behalf of the governor, according to LePage's spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett.

Deveau, who was hired by the LePage administration to serve as a liaison to Canada, speaks fluent French and was part of the five-person delegation sent to Lac-Megantic.

 

Kaitlin Schroeder can be contacted at 861-9252 or at:

kschroeder@mainetoday.com

 

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