Fort Mac condos condemned,
residents told

CBC News
24 March 2011

People who were forced out of a Fort McMurray condominium development over safety concerns earlier this month have been told the buildings are condemned.

"It is with profound regret that we advise that it is highly unlikely that any person will ever enter any of the 7 Penhorwood structures again, for any reason," states the March 24 letter from Al Penner, the lawyer for the Penhorwood Condominium Association.

The determination was made after the properties were inspected by a remediation team, Penner adds.

"They have formed the opinion that they cannot in good conscience engage workers (however well trained in Occupational Health and Safety matters) to undertake the short term stabilization plan previously mandated. Therefore no longer-term remediation can occur either."

About 300 residents were given 10 minutes at midnight on March 11 to get out of the 168-unit Penhorwood complex because of safety concerns.

Since then, they have only been given brief access to the building to remove smaller items.  They have been forced to leave their furniture behind.

Fencing was placed around the buildings Wednesday night and security guards have been told not to allow anyone on the site.

The letter came as crushing news to condo resident Aruna Baker.

"We are really in limbo right now," she said. "We are just going day by day. I have no long term future plans."

Inspectors say they found "significant" fire safety code contraventions, more deterioriation in the structure, and evidence that the roofs of the building are starting to fail.

"What is the most alarming is that much of the failure in the concrete crawl space walls has occurred after residents were evacuated," the letter from Penner states.

"The stability of the concrete structures will deteriorate dramatically as the spring thaw commences."

The plight of residents has led Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo MLA Guy Boutilier to call for the government to step in and provide financial help.  But Municipal Affairs Minister Hector Goudreau said the matter is beyond the scope of government aid programs.

"The courts will have to decide," he said. "It's in litigation. It's been through the system or is going through the system and the courts will have to decide where that additional support may come from."

Goudreau said the province is offering short-term help to the residents as they find new places to live.

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