Whispers, BETHS to remain until March 31

The groups came into compliance, but the council decision was private.

Whispers of Hope Benevolence Association and the Boundary Emergency and Transition Housing Society (BETHS) will be allowed to remain in their current Riverside Drive location until March 31, but the building will soon after be demolished according to information released at this week’s City of Grand Forks council meeting.

Whispers of Hope and BETHS will occupy the building at 7212 Riverside Drive until March 31 per a council decision that the organizations have corrected problems with the range hood in the kitchen, wiring throughout the building and provided proof of insurance.

At the regularly scheduled meeting of council on Monday night, council approved without discussion a motion on the agenda regarding Whispers and BETHs’ compliance with council’s requests.

Despite having Whispers of Hope scheduled as a delegation and a “report presentation,” listed as an agenda item, no presentation was done.

The motion on the agenda read that council “receives the information from Whispers of Hope and BETHS and determines if the organizations have met the requirements as resolved by council at the Jan. 15 regular meeting.”

There was no debate or discussion at council table on Monday evening about whether the group had complied with council’s demands, and no documentation was provided in the official council agenda.

This followed a debate at the Jan. 15 meeting about whether the group should vacate the space on Feb. 8, as previously ordered by a six-month eviction notice the city served to the groups in August.

After hours of debate on Jan. 15, council determined that the group could finish out the winter in their location, provided they address fire issues with the range hood over the stove, electrical problems in the building, and provide proof of insurance. They had until Jan. 29 to provide proof of mitigation of council’s concerns, and would be able to remain in the space until March 31 if council decided they were in compliance. If not, they would vacate the space Feb. 8 as planned.

In response to questions at the meeting from the Gazette, Chief Administrative Officer Diane Heinrich said having the information in the agenda was not a requirement.

“Council requested that there was compliance, the organizations sent documentation directly to council and staff who witnessed the compliance,” Heinrich said. “This came of course late after the agenda was done, so it is not a requirement that it is part of the agenda. Staff decided that everything was in compliance and the information was provided.”

The city did not provide copies of the documentation at that meeting or to the Gazette.

Konrad said he “[didn’t] believe there [was] a need” for the council to discuss it at the evening meeting and said council had accepted the recommendation of staff. Coun. Christine Thompson then indicated that there likely would have been a discussion at the meeting had the groups not come into compliance.

Whispers of Hope coordinator Melissa Shulga provided the Gazette with documentation demonstrating compliance following the meeting, as well as the email she sent to all members of council and the general “info@grandforks.ca” email address.

Documentation provided by Shulga includes receipts for electrical work done by RediElectric, receipt for range hood work done by Clover Exhaust on Jan. 14, and proof of insurance. Shulga added the organization had raised its liability coverage from $1 million to $2 million.

Shulga also provided pictures in her submission to council and to the Gazette. Pictures showed the before and after of the wiring, range hood and electrical outlets in the building.

Council had also voted to add a late item to the agenda. That item was a resolution released from in-camera stating that council authorize staff to proceed with securing the services of a demolition contractor for “removal and clean-up” the property “at the earliest opportunity” following the tenants vacating the property.

A recent estimate from city staff put the cost of reparig and bringing the building to code at roughly $312,000; it is unclear how much the demolition of the building could cost.

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