Balconies off-limits at N.W.T.’s tallest apartment building

Things are in disrepair at the N.W.T.’s tallest apartment building, where people are forbidden from using the balconies and the fire alarm system consists of a loudspeaker carried from floor to floor.

'Right now we have a loudspeaker and we go from floor to floor and we announce there is a fire'

The 40-year-old Mackenzie Place building in Hay River has about 10 cracked balconies and a broken fire alarm system. 'Right now we have a loud speaker and we go from floor to floor and we announce there is a fire,' says owner Harry Satdeo. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Cracked balconies and a broken fire alarm system have prompted the fire marshal to order renovations to the Hay River Highrise, and that has some people wondering whether residents will still have a home in the near future.

Hay River North MLA Robert Bouchard has been following problems at the building closely. 'It's an icon in the community for sure.' (Jacob Barker/CBC)
About 150 people live in the 17-storey Mackenzie Place.

It was built about 40 years ago, and is the tallest structure in the Northwest Territories, after Yellowknife's Robertson headframe.

“It's a vital residency for our community,” says Robert Bouchard, the MLA for Hay River North. “It's an icon in the community for sure, and the fact that it is in this situation is definitely concerning."

In February, the building’s fire alarm was damaged by water. It has yet to be fixed.

Owner Harry Satdeo admits the fire alarm system isn't perfect. (Jacob Barker/CBC)
The building’s owner, Harry Satdeo, says the fire marshal asked him to install smoke detectors, which he did just three days after the fire alarm went down.

“There are two on every floor,” he says. “They work in series, so if there's a fire on this floor, it would activate all the floors."

The system has been tested and the building is on 24-hour fire watch, but Satdeo admits it isn't ideal.

“Right now we have a loudspeaker and we go from floor to floor and we announce there is a fire. We weren't happy but what can we do? It is to make sure people are safe and that's the only way we could alert them, but I guess we have to bang on each door from now on if there is something."

Residents have been warned to stay off their balconies. (Jacob Barker/CBC)
Another warning has also been posted on the wall forbidding people to use their balconies.

Satdeo says the fire department expressed concerns to him about some balconies when he first bought the building in 2002. Concrete is cracking on the balconies of about 10 units.

Satdeo says repairs could be done by next summer, and that he's in the process of selecting a contractor to fix the fire alarm.

Plans underway for possible closure

The fire marshal's office refused to answer any questions about the situation, but local officials are watching closely.

​Bouchard says community leaders — including MLAs and the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs — recently met to talk about what could happen if the building were closed.

Balconies in about 10 units are in disrepair. (Jacob Barker/CBC)
“We're getting indications it would probably be a phased approach," he says. "If some of the deficiencies aren't met, you know they would maybe start to close some of the floors down to alleviate some of that concern." 

According to Bouchard, the deadlines for repairs are towards the end of this month.

He says if the owner doesn't meet them, that could leave residents of the building in a bad predicament.


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