The City of North Battleford is making it known it wants the debris at the Jesus is Alive building site cleaned.
Councillors at Monday’s meeting passed two resolutions that sent the same message to owners of the fire-destroyed property: pay up back taxes and clean up the rubble, or else the City will do it for you.
In speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mayor Ian Hamilton said the owners have had enough time to clean up the debris.
“I do feel there’s been enough time granted,” said Hamilton. “The fire was over four weeks ago. I do believe we’ve been patient, and we’ve extended additional patience to allow further work to be accomplished to the end of further reconstruction.”
The first resolution called for the cleanup order to be extended to April 23 so cleanup of debris could take place to allow a foundation assessment to be done. That is conditional on all back taxes on the property being paid by the close of business on Wednesday.
The second resolution called for administration to award the low bidder a tender to clean up the property if back taxes weren’t paid by the deadline.
The rubble has proven to be an ongoing headache for council over the past month, as councillors and City officials have voiced increasing concern about the seeming snail’s pace of the cleanup at 831 -104th St.
The building was destroyed by a massive fire March 5. An order to demolish what remained of the building was issued the next day by the fire department. A further cleanup order was issued March 13 after an inspection of the site. The owner was ordered to remove all debris, to fill the remaining hole and level the site, with compliance required by March 30.
Owner Olaf Peterson and the Jesus is Alive Association appealed that order and asked for a stay to be granted. He and two other members of the Jesus is Alive Association were at council Monday to plead for more time to clean up the property.
Peterson wrote to Fire Chief Pat MacIsaac April 2, where he stated he had “made arrangements to remove the debris, fill and level as ordered” and had “fenced the area to exclude the public, and I am permitting removal of bricks during daylight hours with a safety supervisor present.”
The main issue holding up the final cleanup concerns the foundation of the building and whether it might be viable for the organization to keep intact.
Monday, the Jesus is Alive delegation told council they were reluctant to remove the foundation for the property until they can determine its viability. If the foundation is viable, the organization wanted to possibly rebuild on the site.
The organization asked for a stay to the cleanup order, so they could remove more debris allowing an engineer to assess the foundation.
That idea appealed to some councillors, but a more pressing issue concerned them: the unpaid back taxes. According to a report from MacIsaac, the building has back taxes owing of $14,585. In 2011 taxes were $2,346.
Council’s longstanding policy had been to not allow appeals or stays of demolition and cleanup orders unless all back taxes were paid. That was evident late last fall, when the city required owners of fire-ravaged commercial bays on 100th Street to meet a City-imposed deadline to pay up all back taxes before they would allow an appeal of a demolition order.
Monday councillors made it clear the Jesus is Alive organization would have to follow the same rules. While Councillor Trent Houk saw merit in the delegation’s proposal to clean up the property and leave the foundation intact, he nevertheless said he was only inclined to consider it if “Jesus is Alive paid their taxes.”
Councillor Grace Lang was not in a mood to be accommodating. She expressed surprise at the amount of taxes owed and was prepared to give the go ahead to the city to clean up the property right away, given the rubble was there for close to a month.
“We need it cleaned up, we need a safe community, and if the owner can’t do it, we’ll have to do it for them,” said Lang.
However, the rest of council was willing to give the Jesus is Alive Association one last chance to pay up back taxes and clean up the property on their own, if back taxes are paid.
Council agreed to give the association until April 23, the date of the next council meeting, to clear away the bricks from the property so that an assessment of the foundation could be made.
However, Counillor Brad Pattinson told the delegation they should proceed with cleanup far differently from what they have been doing to this point.
“You have to clean the bricks up, and you can’t do it by hand, my friend,” Pattinson told the delegation, referring to their use of volunteer labour to help with the cleanup. He said they’ll need to get a machine in to clear away the debris so an inspector could look at the foundation.
Should the Jesus is Alive Association fail to meet the City’s deadlines in either paying the back taxes or cleaning up the property, the City has been authorized by council to contract with the lowest bidder toclean up the property.
Two quotes were offered. Ron’s Contracting would do the job for $89,000 plus taxes, but the low bid appears to belong to Ken and Terry’s Construction Ltd., who will take $31,104 to demolish and haul away the basement and $54,107.80 to fill it in. However, council is urging administration to negotiate further on the price of the fill, should that work go ahead.
Waste management fees were not included in either estimate. Should the City go ahead with the cleanup on their own, the costs would be applied to the owners’ outstanding taxes.