Abandoned basement cleaned up in Northside

Perry Bergson
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Coun. Ken Button from the RM of Paddockwood stands at the site in Northside where a flooded basement had been worrying some people in the area. The basement — which had garbage and dead animals floating in the water that filled it — was left behind when a house was torn down. The RM had to follow the law before it could go in to clean up the property last week.

In a perfect world, Coun. Ken Button and the RM of Paddockwood would have cleaned up an abandoned Northside home a long time ago.

But like a lot of things in life, it’s not quite that easy, Button says.

The RM had to give the former owner — who is now out of province — time to rehabilitate the property but moved in after it became a danger.

 “We can’t just go in and destroy a person’s property,” Button said. “There are civil rights and human rights and property rights that have to be adhered to. It takes time. It took longer than we wanted it to but up until the time the building was gone and the basement presented a hazard, we didn’t have the authority to go in and spend thousands of dollars to rehabilitate the property.”

The abandoned home just off of Highway 2 became a party spot, and as windows and doors were broken, wildlife moved in.

Residents gave the RM a signed petition on July 15, 2011 seeking action.

“It was identified a little over a year ago as a problem. As soon as I heard about it, I came and had a look and yes, it definitely needed something done,” Button said. “The owner, by our protocol and bylaws, has to be given an order to fix it, clean it up and make it habitable or dismantle it.”

After the property owner was served with the notice, the house did come down but the basement was left behind. It soon filled with water and became an eyesore.

Some neighbours feared it could contaminate the groundwater in the area.

Button says he was first told about the new problem on Aug. 19.

“I came over for a meeting that night and had a look, and ya, it had to go,” he says. “Once it becomes an urgent issue, the RM can circumvent that protocol and go in and knock it down and put the cost on the tax bill.”

It took a solid week for a trackhoe and a couple of loaders to take out the cement and replace it with fill. The RM found a place to take the cement, allowing them to avoid what would have been much larger costs.

Some tires have to be taken to Prince Albert and some tanks also have to be discarded. A neighbour has agreed to take a large pile of lumber to burn in their outdoor pit.

The large garage was also taken down, although the septic tanks and well were left behind in case someone becomes interested in the property.

Button remains hopeful that someone will buy it from the owner, maybe for the cost of the cleanup.

 “It’s low over there,” he said, pointing to a spot near where the garage once sat, “but with the amount of fill we put in this time it should be habitable.”

Button, who has served as a councillor for two years and is now seeking a new four-year term, says the experience has been an eye opener.

“Hindsight is always 20-20 and if this was to happen down the road, I’d be talking to people a lot more. Live and learn.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, 20-20

Geographic location: Northside

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