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Tulita suffers building blues

John Curran
Northern News Services

Fort Norman (Jan 10/05) - It was a little harder for Tulita residents to enjoy the holidays this year after the band office was condemned by the fire marshal just before Christmas.

"The foundation is not safe," said Chief Frank Andrew. "We're pretty upset. That building was built in the early 1990s. It's only about 10 years old."

The band building also houses the Hamlet of Tulita office, the Wellness Agency and Health and Social Services.

Andrew said he has been told a temporary fix for the cracked foundation is pegged at approximately "a couple hundred thousand dollars." Some estimates state the cost is closer to $300,000.

"We can't afford that right now," said Andrew. "We're in the process of looking for help."

Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) Minister Michael McLeod said because the band owns the building, his department isn't considering any emergency support.

"We were notified by the Tulita band council in the early part of November that there was a need for emergency repairs to the building," said McLeod, who's department also oversees the territorial fire marshal's office.

"As long as they (contractors and the band council) were working on it, everything was OK."

Unfortunately, Hovat Constructions - the contractor involved in the repair job - and the band council parted ways, which meant the fire marshal had to close the building.

This was to be a busy time for the Wellness Agency, said Laura Lennie, president of the board directing the group's activities. But now all three of the programs slated to start early this year have been thrown into doubt - at least until temporary office space can be secured.

"We were going to look at the health centre, but I heard that Health and Social Services has already moved in there," said Lennie. "We're still hoping that if worse comes to worst, we'll be able to do counselling there."

The agency has three employees - one of which is taking an extended holiday - and their short-term future is very much in doubt.

"Everybody has been scrambling," said Lennie. "We don't know where we're going to be able to work."

For the time being, the hamlet has temporary offices in two locations: the arena and the fire hall, said McLeod.

The band has set up shop in its Family Support Program building, said band manager Judith Wright-Bird.

She said the plan remains to fix the existing band office, despite its severe structural problems. "We're still working towards renovating the building," she said.