Progress being made on FortisBC Ootischenia project

Castlegar's current FortisBC facility on Columbia Avenue.
— image credit: File

The news had originally been announced with the level of gusto befitting a $16 million dollar construction project in a rural area next to Castlegar. When the Castlegar News last did a story on the proposed FortisBC Operations Centre and it’s progress (one year ago) the main point made was that completion was expected in 2016. Each of many steps in a long and careful process were being methodically taken.

The most recent revisiting of the important issue (July 31) included an assurance from Castlegar’s Mayor Lawrence Chernoff that the wheels are slowly but steadily turning on the scheme that will ultimately mean approximately 75 local jobs.

“We are still preparing our Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity which we will apply to the British Columbia Utilities Commission to get permission for this project,” Michael Allison, corporate communications advisor for FortisBC was quoted in August 2013.

“We’re ensuring our application is solid and everything is considered in that application. We’ve been working on this for a number of months and are aiming to file this year.”

The public announcement of the project had come in 2012 courtesy of Mayor Chernoff during the city council meeting of August 16.

The new centre is expected to diversify and grow the local economic and tax bases.

“You look at the spinoffs here,” said Chernoff in 2012. “You’re going to get a building that generates taxes. You’ll get all these new people coming into Castlegar and spending money here. Fortis as a corporation is investing in the community. To me that may lead to other things because Fortis is a leader in utilities.”

The property FortisBC is looking at for the operations centre is the site of the old Ootischenia Elementary School, and was originally acquired as a site for the proposed future West Kootenay Regional Hospital.

“We’ve had this land for long time,” said Chernoff at the time the original announcement was made. “They were looking at pieces of property all over. It came out that this was the place best suited for their operations. We’ve studied other locations so we can build a regional hospital when the time comes.”

Back to the present, Mayor Chernoff agreed on July 31 that it had been quite some time since there had been any news relating to the project. But after checking, he assured the Castlegar News that as far as he was aware progress is being made, even if slowly and quietly. It’s still “good news,” and still will be a “huge boost” to the local economy.

Projected to include more than 15,000 square feet of office space, crew muster space and an area emergency response centre, the facility will be one of the larger construction projects in the Castlegar area in a number of years.

Contact was made on August 6 with FortisBC communications advisor Michael Allison, who assured, “Essentially, I don’t have any updates to provide other than to say we’re still working through the process, and there’s been no major developments. So we continue to work on it. It’s going fine and we’re looking forward to providing a new facility for our employees, and to serve our customers better.”

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