MORRISBURG – “Tenant beware” was the overriding message as council decided to move forward on the hotly debated $35,000 repairs to the historic Carman House in Iroquois.

What was believed to be a straight-forward repair project to bring the building up to code in March spiraled out of control at the Tues., Sept. 18 council meeting when Don Lewis, director of building, planning and enforcement, surprised council with a new engineering report that blew up the budget to $93,000. Not only that, this report ate up $14,000 of the money that was intended to be used for the initial repairs.

Councillor Bill Ewing began the conversation by asking CAO Shannon Geraghty a pair of direct questions.

“Is the money that was used for engineering reallocated back into the funds that are needed [for the repairs]?” asked Ewing.

The historic Carman House in Iroquois. Press Photo – Schoch

“If you need those funds to finish the projects it will get reallocated to an operational budget,” confirmed Geraghty.

“What is the status of the tenant?” asked Ewing.

“At this time, they are aware of the risk of sleeping [in the unit] until we address the code compliance,” answered Geraghty.

According to director of recreation and facilities Ben Macpherson, the items directly related to the apartment were identified and will be addressed immediately.

“So the repairs that we’re doing, does that bring the building into compliance enough that a tenant can be living there?” asked Ewing.

“According to the building official, no it does not,” said Geraghty.

Ewing was still baffled that it had come to this.

“My understanding was that when we were doing this $35,000 it was enough to allow her to be in there, but the rest of the work had to be done. And now we’re saying that’s not the case,” he said.

The report tabled by Lewis, which outlined an additional $60,000 in repairs, was called into question again by Councillor Marc St. Pierre.

“No disrespect, but are we getting a second opinion on that? Or is that going to cost us something?,” he asked.

However, council stopped short of officially directing Geraghty to get another opinion.

The Ontario Building Code (OBC) requires several expensive upgrades, including an egress from the second storey, a fire shutter, removal of an interior stairwell to accommodate a new furnace, electrical panel and fire detectors, fire resistance ratings, fire separation upgrades and energy efficiency and heat load calculations as per minimum standards.

The vinyl flooring in the bathroom and the caulking on the cast iron pipes in the kitchen, basement, and, most likely in the attic, were also identified to contain asbestos, but none of the identified materials pose a hazard so long as they are not disturbed.

In-house staff is completing some of the work identified in the EFI report and they have also begun the process of getting quotes for work that is beyond their capabilities.

No specific completion dates for the work were provided.