Anmore village hall infested with rats, squirrels

The stench of rodents and ongoing mould issues have prompted village of Anmore staff to move out of the historic village hall — once the homestead of Ma Murray — to a temporary trailer or to work from home.

Village staff were moved immediately after a staff report, presented to council at last week's meeting, indicated serious health and safety concerns due to years of "obnoxious odours and the sound of rodents in the ceiling and walls."

In the past few months alone, chief administrative officer Tim Harris wrote in the report, the stench of rodent feces and urine, and from dead rodents, have been getting stronger. Traps were set, which caught nine live and three dead squirrels.

Efforts to expel the rodents over the years have failed to produce lasting results, the report states, and poor maintenance of the hall "has led to a serious decline in the value and function of the building."

"It's an old building, it's probably almost 100 years old," Anmore Mayor Heather Anderson said. Exterminators have been called in periodically over the last several years, she added, but the squirrels that moved in over the summer have proved elusive.

"When the winter came and we turned on the furnace, it warmed everything up and the air quality went down," Anderson said. "It's not a good situation for staff to be working in."

Restoration contractors called in to look at ways of fixing the problem found the entire upper floor of the village hall is infested with squirrels and mice; part of the ceiling has collapsed because of the weight of accumulated urine and feces.

The basement hasn't fared much better as periodic flooding has led to elevated mould levels and numerous rats have been trapped over the years, the report notes.

Last week, staff found rodent droppings in the kitchen and an overwhelming smell of urine and dead rodents. The stove was removed after it was found rodents had been living in it.

Harris suggested in his report that replacing the hall, instead of renovating it, might be necessary since the current structure does not meet BC Building Code requirements for a commercial-use building. Minor restoration work would likely not be an option since opening the walls and ceilings would almost certainly bring up further issues, he wrote.

Staff members are moving into a small trailer Monday and Tuesday but it can't accommodate all village employees.

Council approved a staff recommendation to rent a larger trailer, which is expected to arrive in about a month, for two years while the village either repairs or replaces the hall. The rental and costs of set-up, as well as storage space for files and equipment, were estimated at just over $117,000.

Anmore council was set to discuss longer-term solutions at a special meeting yesterday (Tuesday), when Harris was expected to present approximate costs on renovating the hall by taking it down to the studs and rebuilding to building code standards.

In addition to being the former home of famed newspaper founder Ma Murray and her MLA husband George Murray, the hall is believed to be the third oldest home in Anmore.

"It has an important place in our village and some people feel quite attached to it, but it comes down to whether it's a safe working environment for our staff," Anderson said.


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