Canada

'Built wrong from the start': Fort Saskatchewan condo residents get some answers

Over a week after their sudden eviction, residents of a Fort Saskatchewan condo building learned Sunday night the building they were living in was not constructed according to its blueprint, which lead to it being deemed “structurally unsafe” 16 years after it was built. 

Residents say they still don't know when they can return home

Residents of the 16-year-old condominium building at 9930 100th Avenue complained of spongy floors but investigators found the entire building was "structurally unsafe." (Manuel Carrillos/CBC)

Over a week after their sudden eviction, residents of a Fort Saskatchewan condo building learned Sunday night the structure they were living in was not constructed according to its blueprint, which led to it being deemed "structurally unsafe" 16 years after it was built. 

Tensions remained high throughout the two hour information meeting at the Dow Centennial Centre, where one lawyer, two engineers and one city representative explained to more than 50 attendees why an emergency evacuation took place on the morning of Aug. 2.

Residents say they still weren't given a definitive timeline on when they can return home to the four-storey building at 9930 100th Ave. But several unanswered questions were addressed.

Hugh Willis, a lawyer for the condo corporation, says since the evacuation, he has been hearing from residents concerned about the uncertainty of their living situation. 

"The purpose of tonight's meeting is to answer those questions but unfortunately some of those answers today is, 'We don't yet know,'" Willis told the CBC.

More than 50 people attended an information session explaining why an emergency evacuation took place on the morning of Aug. 2 at the four-storey building at 9930 100th Ave. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Engineers are still investigating the building's structure, and there is no definite day determined for when residents can return.

"We don't have permanent solutions, but we are working on a short-term solution with the city of Fort Saskatchewan to allow residents to have a window to obtain some of their possessions. While that's occurring, the engineers are still working on what the long-term solutions will be," said Willis. 

"Once the engineers are done their analysis, we have to have that discussion with the city to determine if portions of the long term repairs, some or all, may occur with residents reoccupying the space."

'It was built wrong from the start'

Sunday's meeting was the first information session residents have had since their evacuation. 

Media was not allowed in the meeting room, but unit owner Frank Garritsen, who attended the information session, said attendees were also given more information on why the evacuation took place.

Garritsen said engineers showed residents photographs of the joists and structure of the building that indicated the building was not constructed according to its original plan. 

Frank Garritsen, a condo owner, said Sunday's meeting was more informative than he thought it was going to be. (Manuel Carrillos/CBC)

"There was floor joists and pictures of support beams, whether they were in the proper place or not, or just not there," Garritsen said.

"Basically they told us it was built wrong from the start," said Troy Reeves, who is a resident of the building and attended Sunday's meeting. 

"But they're not willing to tell us how long it's been unsafe," Reeves added.

Companies involved in building the condo complex in 2003 include Nova Construction Ltd., GMH Architects and Jacobsen Hage Engineering.

The property is managed by KDM Management.

Nine days before the meeting, residents were woken with a knock on their doors at 8 a.m. and were told they had 30 minutes to pack their bags because city officials had determined the building was "structurally unsafe."

"The residents first reported that the flooring seemed to be somewhat spongy," Brad Ward, director of protective services and emergency management, said during a news conference Friday.

While investigating the issue, Ward said engineers discovered a bigger issue and recommended the city order an evacuation.

Residents were frustrated with the short timeline to evacuate but Willis says the city made the decision in the wee hours of Aug. 2 and because of that, waited for the next morning to let residents know.

During this time, the Red Cross said it helped nearly 30 people — about 18 households — with 72-hour emergency accommodation plus another 24 hours because it was a long weekend. 

'Liability down the road'

According to Willis, the top priority is to get people back home.

"The work has been extensive and certainly unexpected. We'll conduct the analysis of liability down the road."

But residents like Reeves are worried because they still don't have a place to stay

"I'm frustrated. I'm living with family members," he said.