The opening dates at a couple of projects in downtown Chatham will be delayed over work stoppages and claims of "sabotage".
The Ministry of Labour recently launched an investigation into asbestos concerns at a new student housing project, La Residence. The housing project is a product of Everlast Group Ltd., which also owns The Boardwalk condominium project.
Victor Boutin, president of Everlast Group Ltd., announced back in February that the condos would be ready for lease in August and that the final phase of work at La Residence would be complete in December 2019. However, that may not be the case anymore.
Work at the student housing project has been called off over the asbestos investigation and it's unknown when work can start up again.
The Ministry of Labour has confirmed to Blackburn News that its investigation is ongoing. A spokesperson with the ministry sent an email stating that two inspectors from the Ministry of Labour and a Ministry of Labour hygienist were at the work site as part of the investigation on March 21. Everlast Group has been issued a requirement to "obtain samples". Until the sampling process is complete, no work is permitted to take place at the site.
Boutin said he is confused as to why the ministry was called in in the first place as they were addressing the asbestos concerns.
"We had to stop the work because of that and I just don't understand why because we had somebody there already with experience removing [the suspected asbestos] with all the equipment needed and they are certified by the Ministry of Labour to do that and it's a separate company," he said.
Boutin said they have contracted a company in Windsor, R.C. White Ltd., to remove the ceiling tiles that contain the suspected asbestos. While the process of the investigation is frustrating, Boutin said he does appreciate the work done by the ministry.
It's unknown how long the asbestos sampling and testing process will take. Blackburn News did reach out to R.C. White Ltd. to get an estimate but did not receive a reply at the time of publication.
"It is very costly when you stop a job like this," said Boutin. "We got our engineering firm, we're dealing with them and doing some more inspections and we'll see what comes of that."
An estimate of the delay for the student housing project could not be provided.
In regards to Everlast Group's other downtown project, The Boardwalk condos, Boutin had previously attributed the multiple delays in construction to issues that were out of the company's control. When speaking with Blackburn News, he also claimed that theft and vandalism are constantly taking place at the work sites, which are believed to be "sabotage".
"It's terrible, I don't know what's going on sometimes in Chatham," he said. "It's very frustrating sometimes but we have to deal with it."
Boutin claimed there have been times where wires have been cut (at both projects), where tools and copper are stolen, and in some cases, plumbing systems have been damaged.
"At The Boardwalk, we had so much damage done to that building... The Boardwalk will be pushed by about two months before we can open it because of that," he said.
Chatham-Kent Police Services were able to confirm to Blackburn News that since 2016, there have been three crimes reported at the condominium work site at 121 King St. W. The three reports include trespassing and two cases of a suspicious person. In the meantime, there have been four reported crimes since 2017 at the student housing project -- formerly The Boardwalk Presentation Centre -- located at 335 King St. W. The reported crimes include break and enter, insecure premise, mischief, and a suspicious person.