The Grand Forks Seniors’ Society (GFSS) will be moving back into its flood-damaged centre at City Park, pending building repairs, flood work construction and a new lease agreement with the city.
Backed by a city council resolution Monday, Nov. 8, the initiative was endorsed by GFSS members four days earlier, according to President Ian Taylor. Asking to come back to the society’s former headquarters, badly damaged in historic flooding in May 2018, marked the end of a long, fruitless bid to open a new centre at a different location.
“It’s frustrating, yes. But, we’ve been at this for more than three years and nothing’s worked out,” Taylor told The Gazette.
Coun. Everett Baker, appointed as council’s liaison to GFSS last spring, said Friday, Nov. 5, that he would put forward a resolution asking the city, which owns the City Park facility, to refurbish the building using part of the roughly $354,000 insurance settlement it received after the flood.
“We did look at other buildings in town and they just weren’t suitable. They were either much too expensive, or they couldn’t handle the capacity that the seniors would need,” he said.
A Vancouver-based non-profit applied last spring for a BC Housing (BCH) grant for a 51-unit rental complex near the curling rink on 72nd Avenue. Meeting with The Gazette Monday, housing minister David Eby regretted that the grant didn’t come through. “I’m asking BC Housing to circle back to Grand Forks about why that application was not successful for funding,” he said.
When Baker’s motion came up for discussion later that afternoon, Chief Administrative Officer Duncan Redfearn advised council that a refurbished centre would be unprotected by massive flood works designed to stave off future floods, making it exceedingly difficult to privately insure the building a second time.
“We’re on our own if it floods again,” he warned.
Redfearn qualified that flood defences would have to be built around the seniors’ centre, none of which would be funded through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.
The building’s kitchen is too far gone to be repaired, and will have to be taken down, Redfearn added.
A July memo to council by Public Works Manager Alex Adams puts the estimated construction costs between $150,000 and $200,000. A flood protection wall couldn’t guarantee a refurbished building would survive another flood on the order of the May 2018 freshet, Adams cautioned, underlining “question marks” about the potential for groundwater seepage to damage the building’s structure.
Seconding Coun. Baker’s motion, Coun. Chris Moslin said, “I’m tired of seeing that building, which is usable, sitting empty. I believe that the funding that we’re including here does include some flood defences.”
Coun. Christine Thompson concurred, saying, “I’m happy to have that building used, rather than it being demolished or sitting empty.”
Speaking against the motion, Coun. Zak Eburne-Stoodley commented via Zoom that, “If this was for a long-term solution, I would be for it. Because it’s a bandaid solution, I think the money would be better used for a permanent solution.”
He and Coun. Neil Krog voted against the motion, which passed with the assent of Mayor Brian Taylor, Couns. Baker, Moslin and Thompson and Coun. Cathy Korolek.
Speaking to The Gazette Wednesday, Nov. 10, Redfearn said city hall would put the repair contract to public tender.
“It’d be great to have an accepted bid by the end of January, but there’s a lot of work that has to happen between now and then. And there will also have to be discussions with the seniors’ society,” he said.