PRRD tables decision on Fall Fair hall until June

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Peace River Regional District will table any decisions over the Adeline Kelly exhibi…

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Peace River Regional District will table any decisions over the Adeline Kelly exhibits hall until June after hearing concerns from North Peace Fall Fair volunteers on Thursday, giving the society time to bring the building into safety code compliance.

“I think that the resolution on the floor will allow the fall fair society to move ahead to look for what we can do to save this building, because that’s really what they want to do, and acknowledge that they don’t intend to use it until it can meet the B.C. building code for public assembly,” said electoral director Karen Goodings.

The volunteer-run nonprofit was planning a $34,000 addition to the hall before a PRRD report claimed the building wasn’t built to code and can’t be structurally retrofitted. PRRD Chairman Brad Sperling says regional district staff should be made available to assist the society.

“If the society is looking for help and asking for help, our staff should be there to at least try,” he said.

At the meeting, Fall Fair President Bruce Christensen made it clear that they had asked if the PRRD required a permit when the building was constructed and were told they did not but agreed to work with the PRRD to meet safety standards.

“We feel that the PRRD needs to grandfather this building. We’ve used it safely for eight years, this would be our ninth, and it has worked fine,” he said.

“This building has been a huge addition, an improvement to our buildings at the fairgrounds, and built so that we could continue to bring the history of farming in the Peace Region and its heritage to people today.”

Christensen says the hall was never intended to be for storage – it was built as a display building in 2014 to replace two older display buildings and noted that the fairgrounds on which it sits do not require permits. Christensen said one was issued by the PRRD after the society pushed for it, knowing that the space would be publicly used.

“This building is integral to our operations. We built it with information from the building inspector of the day, having told him and being very clear what it’s to be used for – a display building,” he noted.

Fall Fair volunteer Kevin Penner says the time and effort put in by the society’s members is being completely overlooked by the PRRD.

“It’s demoralizing as a volunteer to put in all this time and effort, and you’re following all the rules, all the guidelines, and you’re doing it all, and then to be found out that, ‘Oh, sorry, your building’s no good anymore’. It’s tough,” he said.

Heath Tanner, a 50-year Fall Fair volunteer and engineering technologist, says he’s studied the grounds extensively and hopes the PRRD’s report was not political in nature.

“There’s no time that we’ve ever intended to make something that wasn’t right. In fact, we’ve got a lot of engineering staff that have looked into it on their own time, and yes, we’ve had problems, and yes, we’ve corrected them,” he said. “But I’m hoping, I’m hoping that this situation doesn’t have political undertones.”

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