The observatory building located at Fraser River Heritage Park could be demolished soon. A new security fence was placed around it Thursday morning.

MHA release documents on observatory project

They believe the information proves they proceeded to build the observatory structure with verbal permission from the district.

Members of the Mission Heritage Association (MHA) have come forward with documents that they believe prove their long-standing contention that they proceeded to build the observatory structure with verbal permission from the district and that the building’s foundation is solid.

Brian Antonson, president of the MHA believes there have been so many remarks and accusations about the observatory that all of the issues need to be addressed to separate fact from fiction.

The proposed observatory has been the subject of a large public debate since the idea was first approved by the previous council in 2013.

Construction began in March 2014 but the project was halted after the current council decided not to renew the park management contract with the MHA. Instead the district took over management of the park and construction of all remaining buildings on site, including the observatory.

A decision was then made to abandon the observatory project.

Antonson and fellow MHA member Lloyd Rash, who helped oversee the building of the observatory, provided the Record with documents they believe address many of the concerns raised by the district and more specifically Mayor Randy Hawes.

Included in those documents were a set of structural plans for the observatory which were created by Gordon Crocker of Hil-Ron Construction and have an engineering stamp by KNH Engineering Inc.

While they are not architectural plans that Hawes has been asking about, Antonson said the plans do show the building design and the recommendations made by city staff.

Another document, an email sent to Rash by Mike Rohde, senior building inspector at the district, dated March 9, 2015, suggests that Rash complete several tasks regarding landscaping and clean up. It also says to complete items needed to obtain the observatory building permit.

Antonson said on March 9, the structure was already up and built to the extent it is today, other than the siding.

“So, on March 9, he knew what the building looked like and he said to complete the necessary items so that we can issue the permit,” said Antonson.

He believes this proves what Rash and the MHA have been saying all along, that the MHA and city staff, specifically Rohde, were in constant contact and that Rohde told him to go ahead with the construction.

Antonson said Hawes has stated, on two separate occasions that Rash was told to stop construction, but there was never a stop order. It wasn’t until April 22, 2015 that the MHA received a letter to stop everything.

Also at issue is the fact the building is up but has not been inspected.

Antonson said Hawes has said on social media that a complete inspection can’t take place now, because they have no idea if the correct amount of rebar was put into the foundation and it can’t be determined unless it is torn apart.

However, Antonson has a report from an independent inspector who examined the foundation and said the rebar was “OK” and it was “OK to pour.”

“In other words, all the things the mayor said we didn’t have, we’ve had. And they’ve been on file in city hall all along,” said Antonson.

He also has a geo-tech survey of the area saying it is safe to build on the site, although he admits it does not go into detail about the nearby slope.

“I believe that with these things (documents) in hand, it proves our contention all along that we’ve had verbal permission and that in fact the building is on a solid foundation.

“We still believe that the building has got to be saved because there is absolutely nothing wrong with it,” said Antonson.

Mission Mayor Randy Hawes doesn’t agree with Antonson’s interpretation of Rohde’s email.

He said Rash was told, verbally, several times not to go further without the building permit.

Hawes said Rohde told him that Rash asked if they could excavate the hole. He said yes, but go no further than that until we have building plans.

“Next thing you know, footings are in the foundation wall is in and Mike is saying ‘where’s the plans?’”

As for the email Hawes said it stresses to get things done to get a building permit, which is what Rohde had been asking all along.

“They weren’t told to keep going. They were told to complete the items needed.

“I think he’s (Rohde) trying to be helpful. But all through it he was promised, repeatedly the plans were coming. But they never did.”

As for the inspection report on the foundation, Hawes said he had not seen those papers before

“Basically I was told this place has not been inspected and for the most part that’s true. Where the concrete ends, the inspection ends.”

And according to city staff, the last two pages of the inspection report on the foundation, do not have an engineering seal stamped on them.

Despite the paperwork being brought forward, Hawes said it doesn’t explain away the numerous issues with the structure.

“They are no architectural plans and the code says there has to be.” He also said there are numerous building code violations and no electrical or plumbing plans. And with the building this far along, things would have to be taken apart to inspect them.

Hawes pointed to the deck, which he says in now leaking, as an example of some of the issues.

He said the structural plans, submitted by the MHA have instructions of things to do on the deck that “were disregarded totally.”

“It says right on those plans, very clearly, that on the deck, do not use concrete tile. Guess what’s on the deck – concrete tile.”

According to Hawes it also says to put rubber mats down, he believes over the membrane, but no rubber mats are installed.

And while he doesn’t know if that is why it is now leaking, Hawes said putting cement tiles on top of the membrane will cause cuts .

“Here’s the problem. Well meaning people trying to build on a shoestring without completely understanding the code for public buildings. Many of these building are built as though they were framing up a garage in somebody’s backyard. And frankly, if that’s what it was, they are probably well built. But this isn’t a garage. These are public buildings and if anything goes wrong in any of these building we face a potential, horrendous liability. We cannot expose the taxpayer to this,” said Hawes.

He said he believes the MHA bringing forward these documents is just a way for them to “save face.”

“I think they understand the building is coming down. I think they get that. But at this point it’s all about saving face. (They are saying) Everything we did, we did right and with permission. But I’m hearing a different story from our building inspection department. And frankly, I have to believe them.”

“With the decision made, carrying on the way this is, is just divisive. So to Mr. Antonson and others, the building is coming down. We don’t think that you had any bad intentions when you built the building. You thought it would work and we think it doesn’t work. Let’s just end it.”