Youth centre gets money
But city discovers asbestos problem

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 06/99) - Plans for a new youth centre in the old Mine Rescue Centre may not become a reality, even though the city has approved a $250,000 grant for the renovation of the building.

Mayor David Lovell said Monday the old building, which is currently owned by the GNWT, may have asbestos in the walls or around the pipes.

"A lot of older buildings have this problem," he said. "We'll have the building checked for asbestos before the territorial government transfers the title in three weeks."

Asbestos, when inhaled, is a cancer-causing agent and is considered a serious health risk.

On Thursday night, city council voted unanimously to grant up to $252,527 to the Side Door Drop-in Centre to convert the unused building located on the corner of 51st Street and 49th Avenue into a new and improved youth centre.

That was before the matter of asbestos in the building was raised.

Lovell said the centre's future now depends on how much the possible asbestos cleanup will cost.

"If it's a $10,000 expense, we can deal with it," he said. "But if it's very expensive, we're just not interested in that type of cost. We'd have to let (the project) go."

GNWT Finance Minister Charles Dent said the government has approved a transfer of the building to the city in principle, but must still receive approval from the cabinet and financial management board.

He said he was not aware if the building had asbestos.

"Certainly, it's something they'll have to take a look at before the property is transferred," he said.

Wayne Bryant of Bryant Environmental Consultants Ltd. said the cost of an asbestos cleanup can vary.

"It depends on how much asbestos is in the building and what kind it is," he explained. "With friable asbestos, health precautions have to be taken. Particles of it can get in the air, and people can breathe it in."

Non-friable asbestos, however, does not let particles into the air, and is not a health concern during removal, he said.

Bryant said friable asbestos was often used as insulation about 40 or 50 years ago.

Cleaning up asbestos in a building such as the Mine Rescue Centre, Bryant said, could cost around $25,000.

Kevin Laframboise, the Side Door's co-ordinator, said he didn't factor in the possibility of asbestos when he added up the costs of renovation.

"If it costs too much, we'll just have a no go," Laframboise said. "We won't have a new youth centre."

He said he hopes the problem can be solved.

"I don't want to sound preachy, but it's in God's hands," he said. "If the cleanup costs too much, it was never meant to be."