A common theme running through Friday's celebration of the start of construction on Chilliwack's new health contact centre was just how long it took for construction to begin on the "one-stop shop" for mentally ill, addicted and homeless people.
When the centre finally opens its doors this summer, it will welcome visitors nearly two years after organizers' first planned to be in operation.
And although proponents first had aimed for a September 2011 opening, the project only received final project commitment last month, according to a BC Housing response to a Freedom of Information request.
The centre, which includes 22 beds of affordable housing along with health and social services, also won't be quite as large as organizers had once hoped.
While it's never been made public, Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS) approached Fraser Health in 2011 to ask for funding for 10 additional beds. The beds would be housed in a proposed 4,600-square-foot addition.
However, Fraser Health turned down PCRS's request.
Naomi Brunemeyer, manager of regional development at BC Housing, wrote that "the vision of the project eventually was scaled back to include 22 units of affordable housing, some programming space and the Health Contact Centre."
The funding issues weren't the only cause of delay. According to Brunemeyer, "mould and extensive hazardous materials" were found in the building. The issues were not known when the building was purchased and "caused some delay in approvals."
The present vision of the health contact centre was only given preliminary approval in October 2012.
"BC Housing committed additional capital and operating funding to make the project work, as did Fraser Health," Brunemeyer wrote.
Lee-Anne Hansen, the centre's future manager, said there had been many times over the previous four years when she thought the project might not happen.
"It's almost surreal," she said, "because for many days and nights I wondered if it would ever happen. And today the baby was born."
Chilliwack MLA John Les- who is retiring in the spring- had similar thoughts.
"I was wondering if this was actually going to happen in my term of office," he said.
And Mayor Sharon Gaetz added that "What looks very easy on paper sometimes isn't easy in practicalities."
After hearing several speakers compare the long, difficult planning process to the unsightliness of cooking sausage, Gaetz said: "Today, we have beautiful sausage about to be cooked."
© Copyright 2013