Two Yellowknife residents allege contractors hired by the City to update water and sewer infrastructure left the underside of their trailer with no insulation and limited blocking in 2016.
After learning the full extent of the damage this year, Darryl and Nancy Sweetman say they have been trying for months to hold those involved accountable.
The City told Cabin Radio it is “currently assessing the situation and cannot comment any further at this time.”
The City of Yellowknife worked for three years with Yellowknife Condominium Corporation No 8 – known informally as the Northland Trailer Park – to replace failing water and sewer infrastructure. The project was completed in November 2016.
The City says this work was completed in line with the Local Improvement bylaw.
However, after the pipes were replaced under their trailer, the Sweetmans believe nobody checked to make sure everything had been appropriately cleaned up.
Darryl, who is disabled and unable to go beneath his trailer, had friends who work for the City assess the trailer last fall. He says those friends found there was no insulation underneath, while one side of the trailer was no longer on its wooden blocking.
To him, it appears the City’s contractor and subcontractor at the time cut the belly bag to access the water pipes, spilling newly blown-in insulation all over the ground. Meanwhile, they knocked the blocking out of the way and never put it back.
Darryl said workers also tore up the couple’s double-wide asphalt driveway to complete the work, yet never repaved it.
Frozen, breaking pipes
During the winter after the work was done, in early 2017, the Sweetmans’ pipes froze – which they found strange, they said, as new insulation had recently been installed in their trailer’s belly bag, and their pipes had never frozen in 19 years at that address.
The Sweetmans said a plumbing company came in February 2017 to fix the lines and add extra insulation around the pipes that run up through the floor, but never told them about the problems underneath their trailer.
The pipes froze again, and then one broke.
The Sweetmans eventually hired another plumber to fix the problem. The City refunded them for the cost.
Over the past few years, the Sweetmans say their ceiling has begun leaking and the trailer has started caving in on one side without any blocking to hold it in place. Walls and windows are cracking, they say, and they can no longer close their steel back door, which has bent and now exhibits a gap large enough for them to put their hands through.
Darryl phoned a city engineer in October 2018 after friends had identified the damage.
“The engineer came in and he took a look and he came out, and he said, ‘Definitely, that’s our mistake,'” Darryl said. Cabin Radio was not able to independently verify this with the engineer in question.
Darryl continued: “He said, ‘By the looks of the reports here, we overlooked your place on inspection, or they would have noticed this. And the City is going to be held liable for it.'”
When no action was taken, according to the Sweetmans, they wrote the City a letter in April. The City sent an insurance adjuster to take a look.
“As soon as she got in the house, she said she couldn’t stay long because she had to catch a plane,” Nancy recalled.
“We took her around and we showed her the leaks and everything … but she did not take pictures underneath the trailer, where our main problem is.
“She left and then I got a call from her stating there’s nothing they could do, and that we have to go through our insurance.”
But the Sweetmans don’t have insurance. Nancy said they lost it when their insurer went out of business.
“Because [the City was] going to do the infrastructure, you couldn’t get insurance from another company until after the infrastructure was done,” continued Darryl.
“But now the infrastructure is done, and all this damage is here. And they won’t insure us.”
‘Winter is going to be bad’
The insurance adjuster sent by the City told the couple they would have to go after the contractor themselves, the Sweetmans said. At this point, they decided to write a letter to the mayor.
“Our only request is we have someone block and level our trailer so that we can close our back door and replace our insulation, so our lines don’t freeze come winter,” Darryl wrote in his June 6 letter.
Mayor Rebecca Alty wrote back on July 5: “Thank you for reaching out to express your concerns and the struggles you have been experiencing. I’ve taken a look into the matter, and the City’s insurer will be dealing with either yourself directly or your insurer.”
She added they should reach out to her again if progress wasn’t being made.
On August 8 they emailed Alty again after struggling with the City’s insurance company, saying, “Winter is almost upon us and it’s going to be very bad, to say the least.”
In one letter to the City, Darryl writes: “I was advised that our trailer could possibly break in half.”
The Sweetmans eventually looked into getting the repairs done on their own. By September 23, they had found someone to level and insulate their trailer.
Only a few days in, Nancy told Cabin Radio labour and materials had already cost the couple $2,000.
She said there has been no response from the City to their last letter, dated August 8.
“If this had happened in Niven or something, boy I’ll tell you it would have been fixed in a hurry,” said Darryl.
“If something goes wrong in the ritzy area, it’s fixed.”