Council defers decision on increasing Condill demolition budget, City to seek legal advice on initial assessment

The Condill Hotel in Fort St. John. File photo.
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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Fort St. John City Council has decided to defer the decision to increase the budget of demolishing the Condill Hotel until it seeks legal advice on an assessment of the building that was done before the tender to level the building was put out.

At Monday’s Council meeting, councillors fielded a large number of questions for the City’s Director of Strategic Services Moira Green and G.M. of Community Services Wally Ferris. The pair were joined by Barry Barnes, the President of NAPP Enterprises Ltd., which was originally awarded the tender to demolish the hotel for just over $457,000 last October. NAPP has since said that

Barnes told Council about his company’s extensive history doing work for the City of Fort St. John. NAPP Enterprises has done work for the City for the past 22 years, including the demolition of the Fort Hotel.

NAPP Enterprises Ltd. President Barry Barnes answers questions from city councillors about the hazmat assessment of the Condill Hotel. Photo by Chris Newton

When asked about the progress of the demolition to date, Barnes said that roughly 45 percent of the original scope of the work in levelling the hotel has already been complete. He explained that according to the three assessments done for the City, there was believed to be roughly 8,800 square feet of asbestos-contaminated plaster ceilings in the building that needed to be removed. Barnes said that those assessments missed the fact that repairs to some of the building’s walls were done with a mud containing asbestos.

“We can’t tell where all of the patches are,” said Barnes. “Some of them they did a good job on, some of them they did a horrible job on. The ones that have a horrible job, they stick out. When the consultant came around and took samples again, they found asbestos and deemed all the walls asbestos.”

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Barnes said that with the walls now being deemed as containing asbestos means that an additional roughly 23,000 square feet of 1” thick plaster has been deemed hazardous. He also explained that despite the additional material being found, NAPP was going to charge a lower rate to remove the walls in their newest change order due to the removal being a lower risk than to remove the ceilings.

When asked by councillor Trevor Bolin whether the initial assessment was incorrect, Barnes stated that in the assessment provided in the tender documents that there were people still living in the building.

“When there’s people living in the building, you cannot safely do a pre-demolition hazardous materials survey because you have to pound holes in walls, you have to drill holes in floors, ceilings, roofs, exterior walls, everything.”

The City’s General Manager of Community Services Wally Ferris and Director of Strategic Services Moira Green answer questions from city councillors about the hazmat assessment of the Condill Hotel. Photo by Chris Newton

Responding to Bolin’s complaints about the City’s policy of accepting the lowest bid, Director of Strategic Services Moira Green stated that the same information was provided to each of the companies that bid on the tender.

“If we’re extrapolating that a different bidder would have a different result today, I don’t think we can make that assumption,” said Green. “I think that anyone who had taken this contract would have discovered that the information they had needed to be revised, and would have revised the quote.”

Green said that a hazmat assessment and a site contamination assessment were completed with the RFP process, along with an invitation to each proponent to go on a walkthrough of the building. She added that four additional hazmat assessments have been done on the building.

City Manager Dianne Hunter explained that she felt that the City has followed the best process to demolish the hotel. She also reaffirmed her stance that had the hotel been sold privately, the buyer would have faced the same hurdles. Based on what happened with the Fort Hotel, Hunter said that the City would likely have found itself in same position it finds itself in today, only several years down the road.

After councillor Bolin expressed concerns with the initial survey done by the consultant before the RFP was issued, Council voted in favour of tabling the motion to increase the budget, with the recommendation to be voted on after the City seeks legal council about the hazardous materials that were found after initial survey was done.

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