GRAND BANK, N.L. – Grand Bank council has taken the initial step to tear down a portion of the Samuel J. Harris Building on the town’s waterfront.
A motion was passed during council’s July 18 meeting to proceed with the demolition of the Sea King fish plant section of the structure while trying to salvage another part that contains the Grand Bank Regional Theatre space.
“We have to do what we have to do,” Mayor Rex Matthews said. “It might meet with some resistance, but we got to do what’s safe for our people.”
The Sea King section has not been maintained and is in very poor condition, so much so weather has become a major concern.
Matthews said the town consulted with its solicitor this month about liability in advance of Tropical Storm Chris.
He said they were told if the town has reliable opinions from professionals that the building is a hazard, it should be taken down regardless of funding or any storms.
“And we have got those opinions,” Matthews said.
The town, which obtained the building after the former fish plant business went into receivership, had received permission from fire officials to use the theatre portion of the structure for the last few summers. Approval was denied this year, however, due to the overall state of the building.
“It’s gone. I mean, all supports in that building is gone. Everything is broken off. One good wind, we’re going to have major problems on our hands,” Matthews acknowledged during the discussion.
Noting the historical aspect of the building, Matthews said some people might say the town should fix it up. Finding a use for such a big structure, however, would be challenging, he suggested.
“I think, Mr. Mayor, the safety aspect outweighs the personal comments we’re going to have on that particular issue,” Councillor Jack Burfitt said.
Town manager Wayne Bolt, meanwhile, suggested the space opened up from the demolition of the building could be useful for the town’s downtown and waterfront redevelopment project.
The motion passed also called for the matter to be resolved in a timely manner with safety as the main concern.
Matthews said council will need some time to meet with the provincial government to negotiate possible funding to assist with removal of the building.
“If any storms comes up, we’ll take the same precautions we took the last time while we’re trying to do this,” Matthews said. “We all understand the urgency here.”