Lac-Mégantic merchants say they're in limbo

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    Courtesy for Rey Mena

      The town of Lac-Mégantic is preparing for a sad and difficult commemoration this Sunday.

      A year ago, a runaway train exploded in the town center, levelling most of the buildings and killing 47 people.

      In our continuing special five-part series, CJAD 800 News will bring you stories about what has been happening in the town and with its residents over the past year.

      TODAY:  Some merchants say they have been left in limbo with no concrete news about funding or reconstruction


      Some merchants say it's been an uphill battle the past year trying to relaunch their businesses.

      Philippe Valiquette, owner of the local Metro supermarket, told CJAD 800 News he found it difficult to get anything out of insurance companies, public security and the different levels of government.

      "It's been almost a year and we have no information about things such as reconstruction plans or funding," Valiquette said, who added that with the change in the Quebec government, things have been on hold.

      "That's why people are getting angry."

      A preliminary plan was revealed last month at a town council meeting about a new design for the devastated commercial area featuring lots of greenspace. But merchants like Valiquette say they are still waiting to see what's in store concretely for buildings there and reconstruction. 

      New commercial buildings have cropped up next to the restricted area: an SAQ is open as is a clothing store. Other storefronts remain empty, a few plastered with signs saying in French, "En attente d'une réponse du ministère de la Sécurité Publique" or "Waiting for a reply from the Public Security Ministry."

      Valiquette said they are now on track to open in October, only 400 metres away from their old location. His old building is still standing but he can't access it since it's cordoned off in the restricted zone which is still being decontaminated and cleaned up.

      The federal government last month pledged five million dollars to help relaunch the town's economy.

      But merchants such as the owner of the Musicafé, Yannick Gagné told CJAD 800 News he's up to his ears in debt and he doesn't even know if he'll get any of those federal funds. Most of the 47 victims were at the popular nightspot the night of the tragedy. The new Musicafé is being built in the new downtown sector but Gagné said funding to complete it remains uncertain.

      Valiquette described earlier promises of funding "nice promises" but nothing tangible.

      "Some people are starting to lose hope."

      TOMORROW: The decontamination and cleanup of the blast site and its progression


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