2 years after official opening, Fort Good Hope seniors home aims to take occupants in April

A nine-plex for seniors was supposed to open in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. in Feb. 2021. Twenty one months later, the housing minister says she's 'aiming' for occupants to move in April 2023. (GNWT cabinet communications - image credit)
A nine-plex for seniors was supposed to open in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. in Feb. 2021. Twenty one months later, the housing minister says she's 'aiming' for occupants to move in April 2023. (GNWT cabinet communications - image credit)

It's been almost two years since a new seniors centre was first set to open in Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., but residents hoping to live there will have to keep waiting at least until the spring.

According to N.W.T Housing Minister Paulie Chinna, the occupants likely can't move in until April 2023  — the facility was first set to open on Feb. 16, 2021.

At the time, Chinna, along with Julie Green, the minister responsible for seniors, attended an official opening for the nine-plex, but no seniors ever took residence.

In June 2021, Housing NWT spokesperson Cara Bryant said that an early inspection provided "preliminary approval for occupancy," but that a later pre-occupancy inspection from the fire marshal's office identified issues with fire protection, signage and exiting.

Bryant said at the time that the centre would open "by end of summer."

In the 2021 fall session of the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly, Chinna said the seniors centre was on track to open in March 2022.

Now, Chinna says Housing NWT "is aiming for April 1, 2023."

She announced the new tenative date while responding to questions in the Legislative Assembly on Oct. 26.

Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada
Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada

Ernest Cotchilly, 84, is one of the seniors set to move in.

He said he only wants to move in to the new facility once it's safe and passes inspection but that he's tired of his neighbours' partying.

"I want to move right away and get rid of those people that are drinking around here and fighting and all that," he said. "I'd like to get out of here as soon as I can."

He said the nine-plex will be better since it's supposed to have a security guard.

Public reporting needed, MLA says

In an email, Housing NWT spokesperson Tami Johnson said that before seniors can move in, the building requires construction involving "architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical work."

Johnson said that includes completing fire separation between suites, installing ventilation, plumbing systems, fire alarms and exit lighting.

In March 2021, Chinna told the assembly that the agency is seeking legal advice to deal with the "extraordinary and complex" situation.

Johnson said that Housing NWT couldn't comment on those discussions but confirmed they were still underway.

Rylund Johnson, MLA for Yellowknife North, said the project is an example of a lack of transparency from the territorial government.

"It fell off the budget years ago but is in no way complete, in no way on time, and in no way on budget," he said.

He said he understands that there are "a variety of reasons" for the delays but that that information needs to be publicly recorded.

"I think at some point the public record probably needs to clarify what exactly occurred here and maybe that's once we've opened the building and it's all finally said and done," Johnson said in an exchange in the legislature on Oct. 26.

"I imagine that since it's been so long this is not going to be cheap."

In response, Chinna said that she did not have a tally of the costs but that the complex "is a priority in the community of Fort Good Hope."

Housing NWT said that the initial contract in 2015 was awarded for $3.5 million but as work is still being completed, it "does not have a final cost to share."