An addition to the 80-year-old Cornwallis Inn begun in late-2011, received $850,000 in government money to secure affordable housing. Of 42 apartments, 34 covered by the affordable housing program, 31 are complete as of July 31. – Jennifer Hoegg, www.kingscountynews.ca
By Jennifer Hoegg
Tenants at the Cornwallis Developments properties in Kentville are on high alert for fires.
Kentville’s fire inspector and the fire marshal’s office issued a “fire watch” Aug. 27 and again on Sept. 6 on both the Cornwallis Inn property at 325 Main St. and the new addition at the back of the building.
According to letters sent to tenants, inspections showed that neither the fire alarm system nor the sprinkler system were operating to code.
“The undersigned believes that at the identified premises and/or land there is a significant risk that a fire will occur, or that a person will be killed or injured if a fire does occur, is of the opinion that it is necessary for the immediate protection of the persons and the property and identified premises have a 24/7 Fire Watch,” the orders signed by municipal fire inspector Richard Corkum and approved by deputy fire marshal Rick Smith stated.
Owners Alex and Michelle Filimon have been ordered to have the systems inspected and tested. In the meantime, they must provide a fire patrol every half hour.
Corkum said Sept. 16 that the watch was still ongoing at the Cornwallis Inn. He says he had a “suspicion” that the fire alarm and sprinkler systems weren’t being monitored and had received complaints, prompting an inspection. The company could not produce documents verifying the last date of inspection and the operating panel did not contain the usual signature.
“Everything added up to it not being safe,” Corkum said.
With “too many unanswered questions,” it prompted Corkum to take action.
“If there’s a fire, the elevator is shut down, and the Cornwallis Inn is four storeys to get an 80-year-old lady down. The Kentville Fire Department is great, but that’s your only protection,” he said.
“Fire alarms and sprinklers are supposed to be part of the early warning.”
Two people have been tasked with the fire watch, which requires them to patrol the building every half hour, said provincial fire marshal Harold Pothier.
“Somebody has to walk through the building to ensure that there’s no indication of any smoke or any hazards of any kind,” he explained.
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Pothier said such watches can be applied to any commercial or residential property and the presence of Department of Community Services housing clients in the building was not a factor in the order.
“It would be a normal sequence of events for us,” he said.
This is the longest ongoing fire watch that Corkum is aware of in Kings County.
“The building is too big and there’s too many tenants to take a risk,” he said.
Since the watch went into effect, tenants have told him that “they feel safer,” Corkum added.
Work is being carried out now to ensure the fire alarm and sprinkler systems are up to code, he added.
“The receivership has been very agreeable, thank goodness they’re good people to work with,” Corkum said.
Cornwallis’ units in Kentville and Middleton were in the news earlier this summer when its mortgage company, HarboureEdge Capital, filed a foreclosure action July 11 in Halifax Supreme Court. The action alleged Cornwallis Developments is in arrears on two mortgages and owes the Ontario finance company almost $8.2 million. In August, Atlantic Living Property Management Service was charged with collecting rents for HarbourEdge while the court action was worked out.
It’s unclear if a defence has been filed at this point.
The Department of Community Services also has a lending agreement with Cornwallis Developments. In August 2012, the province granted Cornwallis $850,000 to subsidize the cost of 34 new housing units under the Affordable Housing Agreement in Kentville.
Cornwallis’ Gates Avenue, Middleton, project was awarded $224,000 under the program in March 2011 for “rental preservation” of 17 units under the program.
Owner Alex Filimon did not respond to questions from the Kings County Register on the fire watch issue.