North

Hay River highrise wasn't insured, owner asked gov't to help, says MLA

The N.W.T. fire marshal is waiting for the owner of the Hay River highrise, Harry Satdeo, to submit his plan to allow repairs for residents to access the building.

Wally Schumann says Harry Satdeo asked if government 'would take the building off his hands'

Hay River highrise owner Harry Satdeo in 2014. According to Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann, Satdeo is currently on a cruise. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The Hay River highrise is in need of extensive repairs after a fire two weeks ago, and the Northwest Territories' fire marshal is waiting for an access plan from owner Harry Satdeo so that residents can retrieve their belongings.

Extensive fire and water damage and a compromised electrical system is a "public safety" issue, said fire marshal Chucker Dewar.

The cost of the damage is still being assessed. The fire broke out on the 11th floor of Mackenzie Place on March 15. The building was evacuated and some 150 residents have been displaced ever since.

Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann said he had a phone call from Satdeo after the fire, and the owner said the building was uninsured. Schumann said Satdeo asked the territorial government to chip in.

The fire started on the 11th floor of the 17-storey building on March 15. (Aaron Tambour)

"He told me straight up that he had no insurance on this building and he didn't have the resources to be able to deal with this situation," Schumann said Friday.

"At that point, he actually asked me if the Government of the Northwest Territories would take the building off his hands."

Schumann says that scenario is unlikely to happen.

Hay River has struggled with a housing shortage for years, and the influx of displaced highrise tenants only adds to the need for a long-term plan, he said.

Schumann commended the community for helping displaced residents, but he said Satdeo and his company, Satdeo Inc., have been largely "absent" in the aftermath of the fire.

"[Residents] have been very patient with this whole thing. I don't know how I would react if I was in that situation. I'd clearly be totally upset with the owner of this building," Schumann said.

"We've clearly stepped in to fill that role."

Satdeo could not be reached for comment. According to Schumann, he is on a cruise.

A file photo of MLA Wally Schumann. 'I don't know how I would react if I was in that situation. I'd clearly be totally upset with the owner of this building,' Schumann said Friday. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

'Not an easy undertaking'

Satdeo needs to provide an access plan for repairs that are needed before the building is safe to enter. So far, residents have only had a short window to retrieve a few belongings.

That plan will need to be approved by the fire marshal.

The building sustained extensive damage to its fire alarm and electrical systems, said Dewar. He said there are also concerns about mould developing as a result of the water used when fighting the fire. 

"It's not an easy undertaking," he said.

The owner is ultimately responsible for any repairs to bring the building into occupancy, Dewar said.

"Time will tell whether the owner wishes to make those repairs in order to reoccupy the building."

Satdeo had been previously fined $10,000 for not meeting the national building code; violations included crumbling balconies and broken fire alarms.

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