Fire chief says inadequate water supply in case of fire at proposed new Gore Bay apartment building

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GORE BAY—At the urging of its fire chief concerning fears of inadequate water sources and flows to fight potential fires on the land proposed for the development of 20 apartment buildings by Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services (OAHS), town council is calling for its public works department to review all reports relating to this and other issues and bring recommendations forward to council.

“This study shows that there is inadequate water available to fight a potential fire,” stated Gore Bay Fire Chief Mike Addison at a council meeting last week.

“We have reviewed the Tulloch engineer report and there is not enough proper water flow, flow rate or drainage from the property or proper sewer. He said that this took in the original proposal for a three storey 35-unit apartment building, and that OAHS has changed this to a two storey 20-unit building and feel that change will address these concerns. Mr. Addison said he feels the concerns will remain, but said it can’t be proven, “until another study is carried out with the new two storey 20-unit proposal.”

Mr. Addison said later in the meeting, “I think personally that we need affordable housing in town, but in an appropriate place. Why put potentially vulnerable people at risk?”

Mr. Addison and his wife Lori were the sole dissenting voices during a recent public meeting with OAHS regarding the project. The Addisons will be neighbours of the apartment complex.

In the services study carried out by Tulloch, it states in part for proposed water servicing, “an existing 100 mm diameter watermain running along the north side of the site is proposed to service the development for domestic water use. Based on available flow test results, we expect the existing municipal water distribution system to be inadequate to meet required fire flow demands and sprinkler requirements.

In order to meet required fire flow demands, two options should be considered, upgrading the municipal water distribution system or adding onsite water storage. Upgrading of the municipal water distribution system would require further investigation and likely a combination of extending the municipal watermain along water street and upgrading pumps. This would need to be confirmed by the development of a water model of the entire town which is beyond the scope of this study.” Mr. Addison explained “We responded to a fire at a residence on Hall Street a couple of years ago and did not have enough water, and that property is further up the water line than the lot (3 Water Street) being looked at for the development.” He said the size of the water line would have to be increased by the town and outlined a fairly large area and properties that this line covers in that section of the town.

Mr. Addison noted among his several serious concerns is that when Tulloch carried out its studies, when they did the water testing there was no water pressure for property owners at Noble Boulevard, and with additional apartment units on the line, “they may not have water up the hill at all.”

“If there is a new apartment with 20 residents constructed and we get a fire call, we will be calling on our neighbours (municipal fire departments) for help,” said Mr. Addison. “Its not just water pressure that is a concern, it’s water flow that is a concern as well.”

“I have lived in my present home (on Hall Street) for the past 34 years,” continued Mr. Addison. He said at times during the year, “we don’t have adequate water available.” Mr. Addison told council from the report, “no one talked to the neighbours of the property, Bickell’s Creek or the fire department.”

While the development has been scaled back to two storey and 20-units from three storey and 35 units, “the actual property footprint will be the same or actually bigger. If they are changing the size of the building, another study needs to be carried out.”

“I would ask council to have the report reviewed and discussed by the (town) public works committee,” recommended Mr. Addison. He also acknowledged his, “extreme disappointment at the turnout of the public meeting hosted by OAHS a couple of weeks ago. My wife and I, deputy fire chief Duncan Sinclair, Mayor Ron Lane and Carolyn Campbell were the only persons on hand because the meeting was not advertised.”

Mayor Ron Lane said that he has a limited history on the entire project.

“I thought they (OAHS) were here to explain the proposal and get input, but they were here to talk about the design and colour of the building and the siding on the building, which I think was putting the cart before the horse,” said Mayor Lane.

Mayor Lane pointed out one study the town has not received is a site design. “We don’t know where they propose to actually construct the building on the property.”

“I think it is important for councillors to take time to read all the reports that have been completed,” said Mayor Lane. “I know in the water study it was indicated that there was insufficient water for fire protection services. That is why I asked Mike to come to speak to council, because obviously that is a critical issue. If we allow this development to take place, and there is inadequate water for fire protection, if someone is injured it would be the town that would be liable.”

Mayor Lane noted that with the changes in the original proposal from a 35 unit building to 20 units, a second detailed report needs to be carried out. “They (OAHS) need to carry out a phase-two study. But the attitude of the representative from OAHS at the meeting was ‘no matter what, the building is going to be constructed next year.’ I told her that assumption is not quite right.” He suggested that the reports be deferred to the town public works committee for a full study to be carried out and recommendations made to council. After that, council will have to respond to OAHS with a detailed report.

“I agree,” stated Councillor Dan Osborne. “Public works and the fire department need to be looking at these reports. Publics works can go over this and probably hold a meeting with council after that.”

Mayor Lane suggested that council pass a motion directing town CAO Stasia Carr to write a letter to OAHS indicating that the town is undertaking a review by public works and will be providing a response to address the issues raised. He pointed out a whole new water line to address some of the concerns would cost millions of dollars, something the town can’t afford.

A motion was passed by council indicating that OAHS has submitted several reports to the town, and that, subject to the results of the studies and concerns that have been raised, these reports will be reviewed by public works for recommendations to council. The town will also be forwarding a letter to OAHS indicating the studies are being studied and once complete, the town will forward a further letter to OAHS with its expectations.