Town hall shut down

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Hay River's town hall has been closed for the foreseeable future as a result of a mold problem in the ventilation system.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Hay River’s town hall has been closed for the foreseeable future as a result of a mold problem in the ventilation system.

Town hall shut down last week after white mould was found in the ventilation system, forcing employees to relocate for the foreseeable future.

“Once they discovered it, our first priority, obviously, was the health and safety of our people,” said Mayor Andrew Cassidy. “It was found in the morning, and right away, we sent everyone home.”

A press release sent out July 7 stated that regular operation of services would continue out of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.

Cassidy explained that the mould was found as a result of an employee looking to rule-out causes for his illness.
“(The individual) hadn’t been feeling great, and they wanted to rule-out environmental causes, so he decided to check the ventilation system at town hall,” he said. “He saw what looked like mould, and that started this process.”

Cassidy said the management team met to decide how to proceed and right away sent everyone home, and called in the environmental specialists, as well as a contractor specializing in dealing with remediation sites. He also noted that no staff members have complained of respiratory ailments as a result of the air quality in the building previously and that the sick employee’s examination of the ventilation system was not precipitated by a belief that his illness was the result thereof.

Director of protective services Ross Potter said when he was informed of mould in the system, he checked all the heat registers in the building and found most of them had stagnant water.

“That’s where mould originates,” he said. “It was clearly a respiratory hazard and the only option was to shut it down.”

Potter said the environmental specialists and the territory’s workers’ compensation board have been fully supportive of that course of action. The mould discovered was of the white variety, but Potter said any mould poses a clear problem.

“Any mould isn’t really good for you,” he said. “We have to protect our most vulnerable people, like older people, children, and people with respiratory issues, but this is about protecting everyone.”

Mould can be black, white or almost any colour.

In order for mould to grow it needs moisture and a material it can live on and it then it releases spores into the air, which can have an adverse impact to health, according to Health Canada.

Potter said the first step to dealing with the problem in the building would be to remove all the standing water present in the system, which he said was likely caused by a failed weeping system outside.

After that, the next step would be to clean out the ventilation system; the concrete slab on which town hall is built would need to be broken to access the inner workings of the system.

“It’s a pretty big undertaking,” he said. “That building is 60 years old. There are going to be some problems with it, especially when it starts getting taken apart.”

While Cassidy said council and administration are working together to look at short and mid-to-long-term options, nothing has yet been decided.

“If it’s something that we can fix economically, then we’ll do that,” he said. “If not, we’ll start looking at other options.”

Part of a pattern
The state of town hall, however, is hardly news. Council has been discussing the need for a replacement for the aging structure for some time, as has the public in general. There is even money allocated in the capital budget this year to study what would be needed in a new or existing building to operate properly. Currently, front desk services have moved to the Don Stewart Recreation Centre while the rest of administrative staff has been relocated to the new fire hall.

“This was something emerging in our discussions already,” said Cassidy.

“We’ve been talking about possibilities for a new town hall, this situation has just expedited it a little bit.”

-Sarah Ladik