GRAND BANK, N.L.
The fate of the Sea King building in Grand Bank has been pretty much a foregone conclusion for several years, Grand Bank Mayor Rex Matthews said.
Damage caused by recent high winds in the region has finally brought matters to a definitive head, however.
On Sunday, Oct. 21, a piece of the building facing the wharf blew off. The area has since been secured and the town is advising the public to keep clear.
“It’s demolition by neglect, that’s how I would describe it, but the funding hasn’t been there for such a huge building to invest into it and do the other projects that you need in your town,” Mayor Rex Matthews told The Southern Gazette on Tuesday, Oct. 23.
The Samuel J. Harris Building has two sections, one of which until this past spring housed the Grand Bank Regional Theatre and another area that was formerly the Sea King fish plant.
With concerns about the structure mounting, on July 18, council passed a motion to proceed with the demolition of the Sea King section in a timely manner. Since then, the town has met with Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Andrew Parsons to discuss potential cost-sharing options that might be available.
The town has also submitted a capital works application with the province for 2019 to tear the structure down.
Funding to demolish a building is hard to come by, however, according to Matthews, who said it’s possible the town may have to pay for the job out of its own coffers.
That could be an expensive proposition.
At the current rate of $90/tonne at the Burin Peninsula Regional Service Board’s waste facility, Matthews said the tipping fees alone would be in the neighbourhood of $277,000.
That’s on top of the cost of tearing down the building and transporting it to the site near Jean de Baie.
The condition of the historic waterfront structure has been steadily deteriorating. The town commissioned an engineering study on the building some five years ago.
“You could read into it that the end of that building was there then,” Matthews said.
Council is hoping to be able to save the theatre portion of the building, but Matthews has previously told The Southern Gazette that would be a “long shot.”
The mayor said the way forward remains unclear at this time.
“We’re still working on it with the provincial government and Municipal Affairs and our MHA, but there’s no certain path to what’s going to happen here yet,” he said.
Bearing the full brunt of the cost to demolish the building for a small town like Grand Bank would be tough, he said.
“So we have to keep trying for a while and just make sure people stay away from the area and give us an opportunity to keep working and keep working, but it’s a struggle.”