Appearances might be deceiving to the public come Monday, as the extent of water and fire damage from an August 2 arson attempt at city hall is still not entirely visible, said officials.
Currently City of Calgary workers are quickly remediating damage, so that City Hall can be re-opened on Monday, August 8, to the public.
Touring the damaged third floor and City Hall School on Thursday, City of Calgary officials were quick to point out that additional water damage remains hidden from view.
“We still believe that water is migrating, so things change all the time,” said Acting City of Calgary Manager, Carla Male.
“So we learn more every minute about the at the extent of the damage,” she said.
Manager for business operations for facility management, Mario Henriques, said that damage extended from the third floor through to the basement of the building.
“The fires were relatively small—what happened was at least two zones of the sprinkler systems activated due to the heat and/or the smoke associated with the fires,” he said.
“So there’s some significant water damage that has occurred on this side of the building.”
Arson attempt unlikely to lead to redesign of complex
Henriques said that the concrete construction of the municipal complex was a tremendous help in slowing down the growth of the suspected arsonists’ fires.
Christopher Collier, director for corporate safety and security with the City of Calgary, said changes to the glass front where the suspected arsonist broke in, would be unlikely to occur.
“In terms of the security of the building, we do have safety and security systems that monitor the building, including staff,” said Collier.
“It is a very secure building, but we also have to remember it is a public building—it is open to the public, and a part of the plus 15 network, so it’s a balance between that security, accessibility, and openness to the public,” he said.
Male said that as the police investigation into the arson attempt is ongoing, and the city has not made a decision on whether to seek restitution for the damage caused from the suspect. The City of Calgary indicated weeks earlier that they would do so from the suspect who caused nearly $1 million in damages to the Peace Bridge.
“It’s really a police matter at this point, and so we’ll let that investigation happen, and then we will take the right next steps whenever that’s determined,” said Male.
Assessment of costs to come, possibly as early as next week
The city has not yet been able to assess the entire cost of the damage done. Male said that city employees have been working with the insurance and risk claims departments. They are aiming to have a more solid figure for next week.
City services on the third floor will remain closed for at least two weeks. Power was restored to the building within 24 hours.
Male said they were working hard to mitigate the number of disruptions to work at City Hall.
She said that city staff who work on the fourth floor or above of the municipal complex are able to work on site. Affected staff who are able to work from home are doing so, and the city is making alternative work arrangements.
“We do have a lot of people who are naturally away on vacation,” said Male.
Collier said that currently the goal is to ensure that workers are as safe as possible returning to the complex.
“The first priority is the safety of the of the staff and the building safety of the building itself,” he said.
“Then the next priority is to get our services up and running as quickly as possible, and that will be done in stages and phases as we can do that.”