C-K must explore all options to find rail operator

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Sir: I write to you today regarding the current CSX rail line issue happening in our community. In the effort of full disclosure, I must state that I am not a completely objective spectator in this issue. Two of the parties involved are current clients of a company that I own and the third is a potential client and, as such, I have a vested interest in the outcome of how this plays out.

As I read the articles that you have published regarding the current quandary that our municipality and three private enterprises is in, an idea formulated in my mind. I cannot claim that idea as my own, but I managed to make a connection to a similar situation that I have been involved with in Central America. One of our clients in Guatemala is a port facility on the Pacific Ocean that unloads grains, DDGS and soy meal from ocean freighters. This port facility was conceived in 2000, constructed in 2003 and went into operation in 2004.

At the time of conception, there was a need for a port facility, however no single entity in Guatemala could make a business case to build one. A group of private enterprises (some local and some international) got together with government and built the facility. It is managed by a general manager and operated by staff employed by the facility. Each of the owners is an equal shareholder and is represented by a member on its board of directors, to which the general manager directly reports.

Like most ventures, this one had its challenges and struggles, but today it is a thriving and growing facility that is one of the best port facilities in Latin America.

The similarities between this situation and our own CSX rail line situation here in C-K are striking; a piece of infrastructure is required to help local agri-business and private enterprise, and government has a vested interest in sustaining the infrastructure that none of them are able to justify solely. Other than geography and the mode of freight, these two situations are virtually the same.

I am not sure if the parties have collaborated at all on a possible solution modelled similar to my client in Guatemala, but I personally believe it is worthwhile to vet this as a viable alternative. I also believe that the onus of doing the legwork lies on the municipality. After all, isn’t one of the roles of government to create economy and infrastructure for the welfare of their citizens where an immediate business case may not exist?

Ironically, I received an e-mail yesterday announcing more rural economic program funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to assist in rural economic development. Retaining the CSX rail line seems like an ideal fit for this funding.

I think that this could be called the perfect storm. I challenge our municipality to put it together and facilitate discussion on this as a possible solution to retaining this vital mode of freighting our local products to potential markets.

Jim Waters

Blenheim

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