The Saskatoon Fire Department says it has taken the next step in collecting money owed to the city after dealing with safety issues at a high-rise condominium.
Fire Chief Morgan Hackl said a nearly $58,000 invoice was sent to the Prairie Heights condo board for repairs made earlier this year to the building’s fire alarm and fire sprinkler system.
The SFD said it arranged for qualified technicians to repair the systems, and install portable fire extinguishers after noting the deficiencies during a call to the building in January.
Hackl said those repairs are two of several solutions to ensure living conditions at the building located at 1416 20th St. W. are safe.
“Every resident in our community deserves to live in a safe home, and no one should have to tolerate violence, criminal activity and vandalism that puts other lives at risk,” Hackl said Monday in a statement.
“However, the fire department has limited powers to curb this.”
An order to remedy was issued by the fire department to the condo board on Aug. 13, 2020. Assistant Chief Yvonne Raymer says many of the infractions listed in the order have not been remedied.
She said compounding the situation is the ownership of the units — one person controls 15 suites, and the estate of another individual owns 11 suites — and no organization is actively working on their behalf.
“We can only close a building for as long as the necessary repairs can be made on an order to remedy,” Raymer said.
“This would temporarily fix the immediate structural and life safety issues once again but would not address other more serious concerns — notably violence, drug trade, and addictions that would lead to a repeat of vandalism, more violence and unsanitary conditions.”
Raymer said the action the fire department took at the end of January ensured none of the 160 to 170 residents would be displaced in the middle of winter.
She noted that of thse residents, homeless individuals can make up to 20 residents and are found sleeping in stairwells and common areas around the building.
The fire department said each owner was sent a letter of the invoice as a courtesy.
The board has 30 days to pay the invoice otherwise the owners could be subject to collection efforts which could include the city filing a lien on each unit, according to the fire department.
In a statement to Global News, the City of Saskatoon solicitor’s office added if court action was taken and the condo corporation couldn’t pay the bill, “debt collection would shift to the unit owners and potentilly could affect the title to their real property.”
Hackl said the invoice works out to roughly $1,400 for each unit in the 42-unit building.
In 2020, the fire department said it responded to 109 calls at the building, and 45 times to date this year.
The fire department noted that the condo board has the authority to evict problem residents.
It is not the first time the fire department has taken action at a building in the city for unsafe or unsanitary conditions.
In July 2020, the fire department ordered City Centre Inn and Suites closed.
Among the hazards cited by the department were locked exit doors, stairs at risk of collapsing, a failure to maintain fire alarm systems and combustible material too close to the buildings.
The owner was ordered to remedy 34 deficiencies under the property maintenance and nuisance abatement bylaw and 27 deficiencies under the National Fire Code of Canada.
The motel remains closed as of April 12.