In this new multimillion-dollar complex, there’s not much on TV

Bonnie Belec
Published on May 31, 2014

Ethel Tibbs hasn’t been able to watch her favourite television shows since she moved into her new apartment in Pleasantville in April.

But it isn’t for a lack of trying.

The 74-year-old moved into the seniors building at 77 Charter Ave. on April 1 and is one of several tenants who still don’t have television service. Others don’t have telephone service. Some have neither.

“I’m after calling everyone,” Tibbs told The Telegram during the official opening of 12 units in the building on May 21.

She’s been trying ever since to find out why.

“I called the city, Rogers and Bell Aliant and I keep getting the same thing — we’ll look into it,” said the great-grandmother.

The Telegram can relate to Tibbs’ frustration because after several telephone calls, emails and conflicting information from all parties nine days ago, it was only Friday that St. John’s Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth was able to shed some light on the situation.

“What looks like happened here, for whatever reason, there wasn’t enough capacity installed when the building was built to allow for future providers to get in there, and Aliant was the only one in the building,” he said.

The problem with that, said Ellsworth, is some of the tenants want high-speed Internet, fibre-op and high definition, and Bell Aliant can’t provide it given the technology available in that part of the city.

“Rogers was never contacted by the contractor originally, which they should have been, and now they have drafted a proposal to provide those services in the building,” he said.

 Ellsworth said the contractor should have contacted all service providers and utility companies to see what they needed to service the building, but that wasn’t done.

“This should have been picked up as part of the contractor’s work through the electrical drawings and design, and highlighted by the electrical side, but again it wasnt done,” he said.

“I won’t get involved in a dispute as to who pays for what. (Newfoundland and Labrador Housing clients) are still our people. I don’t care who owns the bloody building, they have a right to service. It’s not their fault and we need to do what needs to be done for them to have it, and then if we have a dispute about whose paying after the fact, we’ll have to sit down and find a solution,” he said.

Ellsworth said he doesn’t want  discussion about who owes what or who should have done what to hold up the work getting done.

The 12 apartments that were officially opened May 21 include two fully accessible units (not restricted to seniors) on the second level of the smoke-free apartment complex.  

The affordable units were made available by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. (NLHC) through provincial government funding of $2.3 million.

The project in Pleasantville is part of a larger development with several partners — the City of St. John’s, the NLHC and the capital city’s advisory committee on homelessness.

It includes the 12 NLHC units, four owner-occupied Habitat for Humanity homes (constructed in 2010), 24 city non-profit social housing units and six units for young people with disabilities.

It was during the opening on May 21 that Tibbs was heard telling the powers that be about the lack of services in the building and her attempts to get a straight answer from the service providers and the city.

 “Everything is wonderful except I don’t have any TV,” she told municipal and provincial leaders.

The head of the NLHC, Len Simms, jokingly invited her to his place to watch the news.

When asked about the issue, he said it wasn’t a corporation matter.

Danny Breen, the ward councillor for the area, said he hadn’t been aware of the issue until opening day, but in a followup interview said the matter was being looked into.

He said he was under the impression that none of the tenants had any service. However, on three separate occasions The Telegram spoke to different tenants who had all, none or some services.

According to an emailed statement from Bell Aliant Monday, the company does provide service to 77 Charter Ave.

“However, we currently we have a limited number of TV connections serving that particular building. We are working to address the issue and apologize for any inconvenience.”

According to an emailed statement from Rogers Friday, that company is still meeting with the city and its contractor “to make sure that we can get Rogers’ full suite of services into the building for customers as soon as possible.”

On Wednesday, the company said, “An electrician was in the building today and a plan is now in place for Rogers to be able to provide services to residents. The timeline is undetermined at this point, however they are very eager to move forward with the work required.”

Ellsworth said if it wasn’t for Tibbs bringing attention to the situation, it might have taken a lot longer to get it resolved.

As for the busy mother of six grown children, she said she’ll stick to reading her books for now.