Funding denied to improve ‘at risk’ emergency centre

Quadra Island Director Jim Abram is shocked that the federal government has denied funding for seismic upgrades to the island’s community centre, calling the decision “crazy.”

Abram was particularly upset because the building is the island’s designated emergency centre in the event of a disaster, such as an earthquake, which in the building’s current condition, it’s not likely to withstand.

“This absolutely shocks me that we did not get this grant,” Abram said at the Strathcona Regional District’s board meeting Feb. 10 upon learning an application to the federal Gas Tax Fund was denied.

“These grants were for this purpose, for community buildings that were designed as emergency response centres and that’s what this is,” Abram added. “We even put in a generator and everything else to completely power the place. And we didn’t get the grant. This is crazy.”

The cost to seismically upgrade the community centre is estimated at around $300,000.

The centre was built in 1985 and is the designated community emergency shelter even though a 2013 evaluation of the building found it to be at risk of unrepairable damage should a significant earthquake strike.

That seismic evaluation slapped the community centre with an H3 ranking – a high level of priority on the retrofit ranking scale that is associated with damage such as walls falling down.

The regional district has been trying to secure funding to carry out the necessary upgrades since 2013 but to no avail.

Gary MacIsaac, chair of the Gas Tax Management Committee, told the regional district in his rejection letter that there were simply too many applications and not enough money to go around.

“The 2015 intake was considerably oversubscribed,” MacIsaac wrote. “In total, 222 applications were made, with a funding request of over $650 million. The projects selected reflect the technical ranking provided to the management committee for all projects.”

The Gas Tax Fund is aimed at helping Canadian municipalities with projects that will revitalize and help them build local infrastructure. The fund provides $2 billion annually to be spread out among communities across the country. The funds can be used for projects related to public transit, drinking water, solid waste management, local roads and bridges, highways, airports, disaster mitigation, tourism, sport, recreation and more.

Quadra’s community centre would have been eligible as a disaster mitigation project but did not score high enough in the technical rankings.

The community centre, which underwent a two-storey addition in 2011, is vulnerable, however, because of its rocking plywood walls.

The 2013 seismic evaluation report found that it’s likely there are no hold down anchors in the walls of the centre’s main hall to help it resist rocking.

The other major concern relates to the addition, which was not tied to the original hall wall at the time of construction and, therefore, in the event of an earthquake, would cause the seismic weight of the original portion of the hall to be transferred to the addition, making it difficult to withstand any significant shaking.

Abram, at last week’s regional board meeting, got the support of the board to direct regional district staff to immediately apply for funding as soon as the next uptake for seismic upgrading or anything “remotely related” comes up.

Meanwhile, a regional district application to the Canada 150 program was also recently denied.

That application was related to playground equipment for Hagel Park in Area D.