Investigation ongoing at Fernie Memorial Arena

The Free Press sat down with City of Fernie officials to discuss what they know as of this time.

The Fernie Memorial Arena remains locked down while the investigation continues. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

It’s been almost two months since the deadly ammonia leak claimed three lives at the Fernie Memorial Arena.

The Free Press sat down with City of Fernie officials to discuss what they know as of this time.

Nothing has changed; no new information is known as the investigation remains ongoing. The arena has remained locked down. Nobody has entered the building since the bodies were recovered. The building remains under the jurisdiction of the RCMP.

The City was able to comment on a few things. Firstly, pertaining to whether or not the building is contaminated, they have been told by Interior Health that there is no residual effect from the ammonia. However, they will not know the state of the building until the investigation has wrapped up and the building is returned to the jurisdiction of the City.

Once access is granted, user groups will be able to retrieve the remainder of their gear, and the City will be able to retrieve their Zamboni which they will be bringing up to the Sparwood Arena to help with Ghostrider hockey games.

As they have not been able to gain entry to the building to formulate a plan, the City could not confirm whether or not the arena would be restored, or demolished. They have not contemplated any new major capital projects for 2018.

City officials said that if they were to follow through with the construction of a new arena and curling rink, it could cost upwards of $25 million. This is not something they are budgeting for at this time.

“There have been no official discussions around what the next steps look like,” said City of Fernie CAO Norm McInnis. “We really just want to get into the arena … none of that assessment happens until we get into the building.”

Asked how much this incident has already cost the City, they said this isn’t something they can put a dollar amount on at this point. They are currently working with their insurance company and will have a better idea after the investigation has wrapped up. McInnis said that there has been good communication between groups involved in the investigation, but that these things just take time.

He added that this has been a long and arduous process as the key members who would have been helping to form a plan for the future of recreation in Fernie, are gone. These positions have not yet been filled.

McInnis said that the goal is to have hockey back in Fernie by the beginning of the 2018/19 season, if possible. He admitted that there has been an impact to recreation but it has been minimized thanks to the support of surrounding communities.

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