Collapsed mall inspection report kept from city officials

The inquiry into the fatal mall collapse in Elliot Lake has heard that a confidentiality agreement between the original mall owner and non-profit organization Retirement Living kept an inspection report out of public view.

Elliot Lake funded the $40,000 report, but none of the information was given to city officials

The Algo Centre Mall — which is now almost completely demolished — is at the centre of a public inquiry looking into its collapse last June. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

The inquiry into the fatal mall collapse in Elliot Lake has heard that a confidentiality agreement between the original mall owner and non-profit organization Retirement Living kept an inspection report out of public view.

Councillors weren't privy to the study completed at the mall in 1998, even though the city funded the report, testified a former top official with Elliot Lake on Tuesday.

Former CAO Fred Bauthus said the city paid more than $40,000 for Retirement Living to conduct a study on the state of the mall.

After the city ordered the 1998 assessment, the mall owner and Retirement Living signed a non-disclosure agreement that stated none of the information gathered from the report would be released to the city of Elliot Lake.

"I didn't pursue it, nor did the mayor at the time," Bauthus  said.

The building assessment released at the inquiry outlines structural concerns with the parking deck.

Commission lawyer Peter Doody read portions of the report to the commission, including the suspicion "that the structure was constructed without an intricate waterproofing membrane."

After the report was completed, Retirement Living purchased the property.

The commission heard that Richard Keannealy, who is the general manager of Retirement Living, read the report before buying the mall.

He is expected to testify at the inquiry, in two weeks time.

Mall owner testifies

The original owner of the Algo Centre Mall is scheduled to take the stand in Elliot Lake today.

Robert Leistner is the former general manager and vice president of Algoma Central Properties, parent company of Algocen Reality, which owned the mall from 1979 to 1999.

Leistner testified about inspection reports, building code violations and leakage that was never fixed — and said he was worried about water damage.

He said he went to Trow Engineering for answers.

Trow completed an inspection of the roof-top parking deck. Leistner said he wasn't too surprised that Trow's inspection revealed a lack of waterproofing, but was frustrated because he thought the mall had a waterproofing system all along.

Trow recommended two ways to install a membrane on the parking deck, but Leistner said neither option seemed realistic. The first recommendations would put too much weight on the existing structure for what the concrete slabs could hold. The second recommendation involved removing the parking deck topping, which Leistner said would have affected the structural stability of the mall.

Instead, Leistner said he beefed up the maintenance program and tried to stay ahead of the leaks.

The inquiry also heard the mall owner spoke frequently about closing the mall, about the same time as the first inspection reports were done in 1991. 

Elliot Lake Inquiry schedule of testimony:

Witness Name Dates (subject to change)
Roger Pigeau, Former Chief Building Official, City of Elliot Lake March 22 and 25
Fred Bauthus, Former Chief Administrative Officer, City of Elliot Lake *Will only speak to the first period he acted as CAO, namely February 1990 to July 2000 March 26, 2013
Barbara Cloughley, Former Personnel Manager, Woolco, Former tenant of Mall March 27, 2013
Robert Leistner, Former General Manager and Vice President, Algoma Central Properties March 27-28, 2013
Warwick Perrin, President, Ontario Association of Property Standards Officer Inc. April 2, 2013
Larry Burling, Former Clerk, City of Elliot Lake April 2, 2013
Ken Snow, Former Maintenance Foreman, Algoma Central Properties and Retirement Living April 3, 2013
Paul Meyer, Structural Engineer, P. Meyer Engineering, hired by Algoma Central Properties April 4, 2013
Albert Celli, Engineer, Halsall April 5, 2013
Michael Buckley, Engineer, Halsall April 8, 2013
Jeff Truman, Engineer, Halsall April 9, 2013
Michael A. Luciw, Architect, Yallowega Bélanger April 10, 2013
Richard Quinn, Former Property Manager, Retirement Living April 11, 2013
Blaine Nicholls, Architect, formerly with Nicholls Yallowega Bélanger April 16, 2013
Richard Kennealy, General Manager, Retirement Living April 17-18, 2013
Rhona Guertin, Comptroller, Retirement Living April 19-22, 2013