Several construction projects have been delayed indefinitely on Haida Gwaii due to the effects of COVID-19.
A construction crew that had travelled to Queen Charlotte from off-island to complete the new fire hall was sent home on March 23 and crews working on two BC Housing projects also located in Queen Charlotte exited the island on March 26.
According to a notice from the village, the crew that was meant to complete the new fire hall was en route to Haida Gwaii on March 17 when the Island Protocol Table decided to restrict travel for non-residents other than essential services.
Since the workers were already on their way, they were initially allowed to continue with provisions in place.
The workers were asked to bring their own food supplies and to only travel between their hotel room and the work site, and maintain social distance from residents.
“With these conditions in place,” the notice said, “we were hoping that we would still be able [to] continue with the construction of the new fire hall as it is infrastructure that could be critically needed in the near future.”
“We feel this is the best decision for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens,” the notice said. “We want you to understand that we are making decisions based on the best information we have available at the time and that the information is constantly evolving.”
Chief Administrative Officer Lori Wiedeman told the Observer the village was looking at a few options for continuing some parts of construction with local people involved, but they “haven’t fleshed out the details.”
Wiedeman also said the foundation for the new building, located at 2nd Street and 2nd Avenue, had been poured.
A notice from the village on Dec. 9, 2019 said local companies Clarity Contracting and Dave’s Backhoe were used for the concrete work. Local contractor Sean O’Neail had been hired as the site supervisor.
Before the pandemic hit, the village was hoping to have the new hall open in September 2020.
The old fire hall on Oceanview Drive was built in 1965 by locals.
While it is still in use, it needs a new roof, has a compromised structure and foundation, poor ventilation for exhaust fumes, no area to properly wash and maintain gear, has poor road access and is in the tsunami inundation zone.
“They’re looking forward to [the new hall],” Wiedeman said of the volunteer firefighters using the current building, “but at the same time things are what they are right now.”
BC Housing has also postponed projects on Haida Gwaii due to the pandemic — both with the Queen Charlotte Heritage Housing Society.
A BC Housing spokesperson told the Observer construction had been temporarily suspended for a 4-unit conversion project for families and seniors at 302 2nd Ave., as well as for the Kal Naay, Alder House 19-unit modular housing project for individuals who are experiencing homelessness at 135 Oceanview Dr.
Both projects are in early stages, having been approved in February 2020.
“The sites have been safely secured and are not open to the public,” the spokesperson said.
“We recognize the urgent need for safe, secure housing on Haida Gwaii and construction will resume on these projects as soon as possible.”