ENDERBY - An Enderby building decorated on the outside with brightly painted murals is now being investigated as the site of a possible chemical drug lab.
Police discovered evidence of a drug lab Wednesday, Feb. 18 while assisting the City of Enderby with an evacuation order. Eleven boarders, including up to four children, were ordered out of the building at 509 Mill Avenue due to unsafe living conditions.
"Our officers were there to make sure everybody did get out of the building, and when they were going through it, in the basement they found what appears to be some kind of a drug lab,” RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk says.
The building was cleared, a police watch set up outside the building, and the clandestine lab unit called in from Vancouver. The unit is expected to arrive and enter the building sometime Thursday afternoon. Molendyk says every precaution is being taken to ensure officers and the public are kept out of harm’s way.
“When you deal with drug labs you never know how toxic they are or how dangerous they can be,” Molendyk says.
The property has been a frequent stop for police over the years for a variety of reasons, all the way from disturbance complaints to criminal investigations.
Molendyk says the lab is “small in nature” and can’t say what kind of drugs may have been manufactured there.
Enderby Mayor Greg McCune says the building—which operates a retail space called the Gypsy Bazaar—is zoned for commercial use only and should never have been used as a boarding house. Inspectors found leaky roofs, mould and fire safety infractions during building checks.
“It really wasn’t suitable for people to live in,” McCune says.
He says the building was originally a doctor’s office. With existing partitions and offices, the present owner gradually adapted it into a rooming house. Some people stayed long term, but there was a lot of coming and going, McCune says.
“People travelling through, or that made there way to town and were down on their luck, they’d somehow end up there, maybe stay a couple days, maybe longer,” McCune says.
In the beginning, McCune says there would only be around four or five adults staying in the building, but over time, people with children moved in.
“An adult has the choice to stay where they choose to stay, children don’t have a choice,” he says. “I think there were a lot of people there that really didn’t know there were better alternatives,” McCune says.
Local agencies including the Enderby and District Community Resource Centre, Ministry of Children and Families, and Interior Health were brought in to help transition the displaced residents into safe living conditions, and McCune is confident residents are in a better place now than they were.
“Yesterday was a positive move forward for all of them and for the city too. We’re all about making sure this a safe and welcoming community,” McCune says.
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—This story was edited at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 19 to include comments from Mayor Greg McCune.