FARMINGTON — More than a year after a train of crude oil derailed and exploded in downtown Lac-Megantic, the Quebec town is making plans to rebuild.

A group of students from the University of Maine at Farmington who recently visited the town just over the Maine border said the town is working on a plan to rebuild, but is divided on how to proceed and hoping it can come up with the necessary money.

The students visited Lac-Megantic last month on the pilot trip of Global Perspectives, a two-day UMF excursion program focused on making international education more accessible and affordable for students.

The town was devastated July 7, 2013, by the worst Canadian railway disaster in 150 years, when an unmanned train with 72 carloads of crude oil rolled down an incline, derailed and exploded, killing 47 people and leveling 40 downtown buildings in the town of 6,000.

Over the past year, the town has started slowly to rebuild. The Farmington students visited the recently rebuilt public library, and on Wednesday they met with Maurie Stockford, director of the Farmington Public Library, to present her with tokens of friendship from the library’s Lac-Megantic counterpart.

Farmington and Lac-Megantic are longtime partner towns. The Farmington library led a book drive to help Lac-Megantic rebuild its library after it was destroyed, along with its collection of 60,000 books. The UMF trip and library drive are among many connections the town has made with Lac-Megantic since the fire.

Clint Bruce, assistant professor of French at UMF, who helped lead the trip the first week of November, said Lac-Megantic officials are getting ready to start reconstruction after spending the past year consulting on ways to build up the town by meeting with members of the community.

“They even had children draw pictures of what they wanted,” said sophomore Sarah Gould, who went on the trip.

Senior Tobias Logan said the town’s residents want to move on from the disaster and are primarily interested in finding government funding that would take the burden of rebuilding away from the town. The cost of rebuilding the town is estimated at up to $200 million.

Bruce said some limited reconstruction already has started. After the downtown destruction, he said, some of the businesses left but others, such as a large grocery store, have set up shop again on the outskirts of town.

Before the disaster, Lac-Megantic had been in the process of a three-year evaluation of how to develop the town, but the plan came to a halt after the crash.

Bruce said there is some dissent about how to proceed rebuilding the downtown, with opinions ranging from rebuilding it exactly the way it was to wanting to take advantage of the opportunity to make changes, such as building infrastructure geared toward tourism.

While community members, many of whom have a stake in the rebuilding, have disagreements, Bruce said that there is one thing there is consensus on: Residents want to reroute the train tracks.

“They scare people,” he said. “People want the trains to go around the town.”

The railroad is operational again, and its return has the residents afraid that it will derail again, he said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]


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