Meeting minutes show uphill battle Saskatoon condo board faces in trying to rehabilitate troubled building
SASKATOON -- The Saskatoon Fire Department was called to the Prairie Heights condo 20 times in February, according to Feb. 25 condo board meeting minutes obtained by CTV News.
Prairie Heights, located at 1416 20th Street West, is a known hotspot for police, with 410 calls to the address recorded last year by Saskatoon Police Service.
The building is in disrepair, with many outstanding issues and garbage visibly littering hallways and stairwells.
One resident who spoke with CTV News in February said he sleeps with a sword within reach because he fears for his safety.
Video obtained by CTV News shows the violence that some residents say happens routinely inside the building.
At the board meeting, Assistant Fire Chief Yvonne Raymer said 1416 20th St. W. is the worst building in the city and she recommended the condo board seek legal counsel.
The condo owners in the meeting said that some landlords who own units in the building are not managing their tenants and that their tenants are allowing people into the building who should not be there, including to buy drugs and do drugs.
“Anytime we’ve spoken to the condo owners we’ve advised them to seek legal counsel in order to go before the court and appoint an administrator or exercise their authority under the Condo Corporation Act, to take whatever measure needed to mitigate concerns within the building where vandalism is occurring and if some of the suites have problem tenants,” Raymer told CTV News.
“That is the avenue they need to take to resolve that issue.”
On March 16, the City of Saskatoon issued an order to remedy contraventions in the condo based on an inspection conducted on March 3.
This was the second order city has issued owners at Prairie Heights in the last year.
Earlier this week the condo board was served with a $58,000 bill for fire code repairs and cleaning the fire department hired out to fix the problems inside. The condo corporation has 30 days from April 12 to settle the bill.
Of that amount, $28,000 is solely for the use of Saskatoon Police Service and fire department officials hired to protect contractors in the tower while work was being done.
The second order has given condo owners until April 16 to fix issues including broken doors and windows, a lack of locks on exterior doors and doors to condo suites, cockroach infestations, garbage, filth, human biohazard and water damage throughout the building.
Fire inspectors also uncovered a condo unit where 12 people were living, according to the minutes. A fire inspector said tenants had converted the one-bedroom suite into two or more bedrooms by hanging sheets from the ceiling to create private spaces.
In the meeting, owners discussed how some tenants have been subletting their suite to others.
The inspector told those in attendance that he had been informed by police a tenant living at Prairie Heights was a Hells Angels member.
Raymer noted the number of people who live in the stairwells and common areas, and the accumulation of drug paraphernalia and bodily fluids collecting in common areas.
“When you look at the conditions, a lot of it is that lifestyle, the illegitimate use of the building is making it look so terrible,” she told CTV News.
“I do know from fire investigators who had to do some work into the evening, they’ve reported between four to 20 individuals that appear to be living in the common areas.”
Raymer said the issues with safety at Prairie Heights can be fixed, unlike the living conditions at the now defunct City Centre Inn, where the fire department evicted residents and closed the downtown motel last summer.
About 150 tenants were forced to leave the inn after fire inspectors deemed it unsafe and unsanitary.
“(City Centre Inn) had a lot of smoke alarm issues, fire separation issues, exiting issues and water and sewer was not functioning; it was actually leaking into quite a few of the suites so they actually did not have any running water or sewer in the majority of those suites,” Raymer said.
“There were more long term corrections that needed to be taken in order to restore that building, whereas this property, the longest it’s taken SFD to restore it was six hours.”