West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped scrambling to find new location

Click to play video: 'WIAIH left scrambling for new location to build centre' WIAIH left scrambling for new location to build centre
The West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped (WIAIH) had plans to build a new centre for kids with disabilities. But the Sainte-Geneviève location is in a newly designated flood zone. As Global's Phil Carpenter explains, WIAIH's administration is now scrambling for a solution – Nov 20, 2019

The West Island Association for the Intellectually Handicapped (WIAIH) is putting expansion plans on hold in Ste-Geneviève.

The non-profit was hoping to break ground this year on the KIZMET Centre — a project four years in the making — in the hopes of offering more services to the community.

The plan was to build an extension to the current Pat Roberts Developmental Centre, an adapted nursing school for children with developmental delays or autism. The extension would include a waiting area for parents, a better gym to encourage motor development and a space for community groups to share.

“The space that we have now, we’re limited to how many groups we can have and how many children we can have in each group,” said specialized educator Linda Berghello.

The problem is that the centre, which WIAIH says has never been flooded, is located in a newly-designated flood zone.

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Following the devastating spring floods of 2017 and 2019, the provincial government created new maps for special intervention zones (ZIS). Unveiled in June, the new maps initially put 813 municipalities and thousands of homes in flood zones.

Many homeowners and communities have been fighting to be removed from the new government flood maps.

READ MORE: Quebec removes 30 municipalities from its updated flood maps

WIAIH is hoping to have the designation overturned with the provincial government, but the centre also appears on the Communité métropolitaine de Montreal’s (CMM) flood-risk map. Unlike the the provincial government, the CMM isn’t offering a chance to appeal the decision, Charlebois said.

While a grandfather clause would have allowed WIAIH to move ahead with the project, Charlebois explained that the flood risk remains, even if the land has never flooded.

“As this is money that has been fundraised by the community, we feel a social responsibility to everyone in making sure the project will not be affected in the future so we are wanting to take a step back look at all the possibilities,” she said.

The organization looked at keeping the original plan in place and waterproofing the foundation, but that solution could end up costing double the initial budget of $1.7 million, according to Charlebois.

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Click to play video: 'WIAIH celebrates 60 years of serving the community' WIAIH celebrates 60 years of serving the community
WIAIH celebrates 60 years of serving the community – Sep 29, 2018

Other options include finding a new property to build on, or renovating an existing building to suit WIAIH’s needs.

Either way, the project will likely end up costing more money.

Monsef Derraji, the Liberal MNA for the area, said he hopes WIAIH can find a new location.

“I already spoke with the minister, Lionel Carmant, to find a solution to give this organization some money or some project,” he said.

READ MORE: West Island residents, mayors furious over Quebec’s updated flood maps

Whatever the solution, the staff is eager for change.

“It’s very important, because the area around here needs something for the children to go to,” Berghello said.

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Despite the setbacks, WIAIH hopes the have the project completed by 2021.

— With files from Global’s Phil Carpenter

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