Burning down the derelict Arrowview Hotel for fire practice is not an option the city can consider, Port Alberni City Council was told Monday.
Instead, council voted unanimously at its regular meeting to accept the lowest of three bids for partial demolition of the old hotel by local contractor Bowerman Excavating for $457,000.
The decision came after CAO Tim Pley responded to a suggestion from the public that the structure be used for fire practice by the Port Alberni Fire Department.
“That’s not something the city is in a position to do,” said Pley, a former fire chief. “We’re obligated to do things the right way.”
Pley also told council that the abandoned hotel is in such an advanced state of decay that they are unsure whether the building supports surrounding sidewalk and streets or whether city infrastructure supports the building. For that reason, the demolition will leave the foundation and first floor intact pending an assessment to determine the next step.
While the city opted for demolition last year, a vote to proceed was narrowly defeated two weeks ago with the majority council holding out hope that a private purchase might spare taxpayers the expense. No buyer stepped forward, though.
Some work took place in the basement in 2017 to make it structurally safe for hazardous materials removal and abatement, but the city’s Director of Engineering Wilf Taekema said at the July 8 meeting that the building has “deteriorated a lot” in two years.
Taekema explained that these “unknowns” drove up the demolition cost, as did WorkSafe BC requirements and concerns about protecting nearby businesses, streets and sidewalks. He estimated that the total cost to complete remediation of the site could exceed $600,000.
“It’s obviously more than what we envisioned a year ago,” he admitted. “We will work with the engineers to see exactly what’s required once the top three floors are gone.”
The money will come out of the city’s Land Sales Reserve, which held $850,000 at the end of 2018.
The owner of the Arrowview Hotel, Ray Letourneau, will be invoiced following the demolition and will have 30 days to pay. If he is unable to pay, the cost will go to taxes in arrears. If not paid within three years, the property will go up for tax sale. If no one bids on it, it will become city property.
Mayor Sharie Minions noted that she was happy to see that the low bidder is a local contractor.
In late 2018, a house on Second Avenue was slated for demolition at the city’s expense, but a last-minute buyer was able to purchase the property and demolish it at a lower cost. Minions admitted that this was unlikely with the Arrowview Hotel but wanted to give potential buyers another opportunity.
“Nobody wants to pay this,” she said. “I think at the end of the day, as much as we want to see this building come down, it is still a difficult amount to put on city taxpayers.”