'I’m afraid we’re going to be at a standstill': Saskatoon contractors face challenges during pandemic
SASKATOON -- A Saskatoon contracting business says it is facing challenges getting the permits it needs in time to continue work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There are a couple jobs that we did have upcoming that we are not going to be able to start," K & S Contracting Inc. co-owner Karen Ostapiw said.
K & S Contracting Inc. has been around since 2007. The business, which Ostapiw runs with her husband Steven, is involved in many aspects of construction including renovations as well as light commercial and residential work.
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The recent closure of City Hall to limit the spread of COVID-19 has changed the way the city does business in many ways, including providing building inspections and permits.
On its website the City of Saskatoon said it will continue building permit inspections and plumbing permit inspections over FaceTime and Skype.
It also said residential permit applications will only be accepted through an online portal while other commercial and plumbing permit applications can be submitted via email.
All permit applications and approved permit packages will continue to remain active, according to the city.
Chris Guérette, CEO of the Saskatoon and Region Home Builders’ Association, said the City’s decision to continue giving out permits is keeping people employed.
“The residential construction industry in Saskatchewan produces over 26,000 jobs on and off-site and they depend on those building permits and those projects to keep going,” she said.
Andrew Williams, CEO of North Prairie Developments, said the company still has various projects on the go and is still getting the permits it needs, just a few days later than usual.
He said he commends the City for keeping things running.
“What we’re seeing through our company is a single family permit would typically take about five days to get approved. With the (City) staff and everyone being moved remote, those time frames went up a little bit but not significantly.”
It now takes about seven to 10 days to acquire a permit, according to Williams.
He said other than that, it’s business as usual.
“We haven’t slowed down on production, we’ve just taken a lot more precautions on what we’re doing ... We haven’t done any layoffs and we don’t plan to at this point.”
This isn’t the case for the Ostapiws. They said they have lost some of their workers and customers due to health concerns.
"Some of the employees are starting to stay home whether it be because they’re sick or they’re scared of getting sick, so that’s starting to hinder us getting some of our supplies. We have had a few customers kind of pull back the reins a bit, where we have had work scheduled and they’ve kind of put us on hold," Steven said.
While the Ostapiws said most of their projects have come to a halt, they are coming up with alternate ways to do still do business.
“We have two projects on the go right now ... but once they’re over with, I’m afraid we’re going to be at a standstill, so we’ll have to start thinking outside the box, maybe offering essential services, if they’re looking at construction work to keep our health care system up and running,” Karen said.