France Bournazel is a firm believer that you can always find a silver lining, no matter how bad things might seem.
The co-owner of Russell Farm Market & Garden Centre near Westholme that was flooded and heavily damaged during a torrential rainstorm Friday night and early Saturday morning is accentuating the positive.
The sign is still standing outside the building on the Trans Canada Highway, she noted. “We have to keep going.”
Indeed, work is already moving along quickly since the flood waters receded to repair the damage and rebuild for a spring re-opening.
Bournazel said the target date for the Garden Centre that was on higher ground is the end of April and June 1 for the Market & Deli.
“Right now we’re closed for ‘river-ation,’” she added, her twist of a phrase for renovation.
In addition, “the special of the deli today is mud pie,” Bournazel quipped.
“You’ve got to have a sense of humour about it or you’re not going to make it. You know, it’s not that bad. People got condemned out of their homes and didn’t have any insurance.”
Insurance coverage is helping Russell Farm Market to proceed with the massive rebuilding project right away, however many incidentals are not covered.
“All live plants found in the bush are not covered,” Bournazel pointed out. “You’re never ahead with insurance. I prefer these things don’t happen.”
It was indeed a chaotic scene at Russell Farm at the peak of the rising water. Coolers, equipment and garbage bins floated across Mount Sicker Road, the night employee had to be rescued and the three goats located in a shed next to the Garden Centre were also brought to safety amid fears they might drown.
Unfortunately, people helped themselves to items that floated away from the site during the upheaval.
“I had to stop people coming,” said Bournazel.
The aftermath of everything brought a rude awakening, but it’s been on with the job rather than dwelling on the disaster.
“Everything has to be replaced, right down to our cash registers,” noted Bournazel. “Listen, some people out there have it worse than me.”
She was most concerned about her employees who have been displaced from their jobs. There are 10 year-round employees and another 10-15 seasonal workers.
“My people work here, they have a mortgage, they have a car loan,” Bournazel indicated. “They need their job.”
An attempt will be made to find them some temporary employment at least to fill the gap.
There were three factors, Bournazel said, that contributed to the situation at Russell Farm.
“Yes, we had a lot of rain. It was amazing what Mother Nature gave us for a surprise.”
On top of that, though, she added, the Chemainus River bed is so much higher now than it used to be and hasn’t been cleared. Also, the windstorm of December 2018 caused logjams on the river, affecting the flow.
On Side Restoration, Westisle Heating & Cooling and electricians have been diligently working on gutting the building and starting the rebuild.
“They’ve been working for a week without stopping,” said Bournazel.
“We met with insurance on Sunday morning and were given the go-ahead to start first thing Monday morning,” said Kevin Michieli, branch manager for On Side Restorations.
Testing for asbestos and other hazardous materials was the first important factor that needed to be done and none were found to be present.
“Monday, Tuesday, we had 14 staff here plus sub-trades plus the owner, they had some of their staff helping with the listing of the content,” noted Michieli.
“We started working and dealing with the silt. The silt in here was amazing. There was spots in here six inches deep in silt.
“Once we get all the walls and stuff off, we’ll do a bit of disinfection and make sure everything’s clean.”
Many food items above the flood line and without pending expiry dates were salvaged and donated to the Halalt First Nation and families in need.
“Ninety per cent of it was contaminated,” pointed out Michieli. “All the produce was ruined.”
Through the whole ordeal, Bournazel’s thoughts turned to former business partner Russell Stewart, who died in 2017.
“My heart is in the market, just like Russell,” she said.