Construction of the new health and wellness centre on Second Avenue in Skidegate is postponed due to COVID-19. (Karissa Gall/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Construction of new Skidegate health and wellness centre postponed due to COVID-19

Elders’ homes ‘in the design phase now’ in partnership with BC Housing

Construction of the new Skidegate health and wellness centre has been delayed due to COVID-19 like many projects on Haida Gwaii.

Billy Yovanovich, chief councillor for the Skidegate Band Council, told the Observer construction of the new centre stopped after governments on Haida Gwaii declared states of local emergency on March 23, limiting travel to essential services only.

Yovanovich said most of the exterior of the new centre had already taken shape since the groundbreaking in March 2018, but work about to begin on the interiors had to be postponed.

“As soon as we get the clearance to go ahead we’ll continue,” he said, adding that design and servicing work such as water and electrical still need to be done. “Hopefully sooner than later.”

ALSO READ: Village of Queen Charlotte moves forward with construction of new fire hall

The approximately 9,400-square-foot centre is located above the current Skidegate Health Centre on Second Avenue. The project is being led by the band council in concert with the XaaydaGa Dlaang Society, which will run the centre when it’s complete.

Yellowridge Construction won the tender for the construction contract.

The budget for the project was originally $6 million, but Yovanovich said it had ballooned to $1.7 million “and counting” before the novel coronavirus hit due to factors such as the increasing cost of supplies. He also expected additional fees would be added due to the construction delays caused by the pandemic.

“Hopefully they don’t beat us up too bad on it,” he said.

ALSO READ: Skidegate set for a big building year

Yovanovich also had good news to share. Since the Observer’s last story on the project, BC Housing had approved the budget for an elders’ home proposed to be constructed next to the health centre as a separate building.

“It’s in the design phase now,” he said.

Matthew Borghese, senior communications advisor for BC Housing, also confirmed the province is partnering with the band council to build 24 affordable rental homes for elders and families through the Building BC: Indigenous Housing Fund.

“This housing project is still in the planning stages and BC Housing is working with the Skidegate First Nation through the development process,” Borghese said, adding that BC Housing is not involved in the health centre itself.

Through the Building BC: Indigenous Housing Fund, he said the province is investing $550 million over 10 years to build 1,750 homes for Indigenous people, whether they live on or off reserve. Nearly 1,200 new affordable homes are currently underway.

“Indigenous peoples’ access to affordable housing is not limited to the Indigenous Housing Fund – First Nations are eligible to participate in all provincial housing programs,” he added. “Reconciliation is about building and strengthening our relationships and continuing to work in partnership with First Nations, Indigenous leaders, and housing providers to build homes for everyone who needs them.”

A November 2018 release from BC Housing said the Skidegate Band Council would be receiving $4.8 million to build the 24 homes.

ALSO READ: 206 homes for Indigenous people in the North Coast and Skeena region

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