July 8, 2013

Farmington reaches out to stricken Lac-Megantic

Franklin County seat formed sister city relationship with location of Saturday train derailment 22 years ago

By Kaitlin Schroeder kschroeder@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

FARMINGTON — Selectmen are looking for a way to reach out to Farmington's sister city of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, whose residents are recovering from the crash of a runaway train of oil tankers.

Chairman Ryan Morgan said he spent today talking with local officials and business owners to determine a specific plan at the selectmen's meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

A 72-car tanker train loaded with oil derailed, destroying dozens of business and homes in the ensuing fire. Thirteen people are reported dead, according to The Associated Press, and dozens more are missing.

Morgan said Farmington Fire Chief Terry Bell, who went to Quebec Saturday to help following the massive fire, will address the selectmen about the state of Lac-Megantic, which is about 20 miles from Coburn Gore on the U.S.-Canadian border.

He said he left a message with Lac-Megantic city officials this morning, encouraging them to ask Farmington for assistance.

He said he heard the news 4 a.m. Saturday when Bell called to tell him they were leaving to assist the Canadian city's first responders.

"There are no words to describe what has happened and the pain that you are feeling, but know that we are here for you," Morgan said in a separate written statement on Sunday. "As a man that has been to your great city many times, I know that you will trudge through these horrible times and be stronger than ever. Your city is one of the gems of Quebec."

Farmington and Lac-Megantic became sister cities in 1991, Morgan said, in part, because of their similar town layout and populations, which are 7,700 and 6,000 respectively.

Town Clerk Linda Grant said Farmington resident Paul Flagg led the movement to form the partnership 22 years ago, so the two could share cultures and and economic growth.

Delegations from Farmington have occasionally visited the city 93 miles away since the beginning of the partnership, but Morgan said little has been done in recent years. He said last month he began researching ways to renew outreach efforts between the communities.

He predicted that the train derailment and fire, while a tragedy, would serve as a catalyst to renew the connection between the two cities.

"It's not the avenue we were hoping for, of course, but it should serve to pull us closer," he said.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252
kschroeder@mainetoday.com

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