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Delays Could Threaten Hockey Season at Pavilion

By Frank Parlato

The full City Council, all five members, took issue with Mayor Paul Dyster’s plans to delay repairs to the compressors and the building of new rinks and boards at the city-owned Hyde Park Ice Pavilion at Monday’s late afternoon council work session.

The work delays could threaten the use of the ice rinks for the fall hockey season, triggering a strong reaction from lawmakers.

Last year, a request for proposals went out and a new operator, Gene Carella, won the award to operate the pavilion, upping the rent for the aging facility.

The delay in refurbishing the rinks was predicted by recently fired City Engineer Jeffrey Skurka who told the Reporter in late March that it would be impossible to complete them (refurbishments) this year because of bid requirements that take months to scope, receive and award.

"Unless it is treated as an emergency repair, where no bids are required, it cannot be completed in time for the fall season," Skurka said.

Nevertheless, in March, Mayor Dyster emphasized the need for the council to fast track a consulting contract with Ice Rink Specialists to scope and bid out the repair work on behalf of the city, suggesting that Skurka was wrong and that the repair work could, and in fact, must be done this season while the ice was thawed, otherwise the city risked losing a season of tournament hockey.

Skurka suggested the city explore an energy efficient Geo Thermal alternative that, he said, could be completed this season.

On the recommendation of the mayor, Ice Rink Specialists received council approval for an $85,000 consulting contract, approved 5-0, at the April 15 2013, council meeting.

The mayor told the Niagara Gazette (March 27, 2013 “Rink repairs in works”) “We’re trying to fast track work on rink one in order to get a project done before the start of organized hockey in the fall.”

That plan has come to naught. Skurka was right.

The mayor told the council at Monday’s work session that, after Rink Specialists got their $85,000 consulting contract, “What seemed relatively straight forward was more complicated.This is why we pay them” as he explained that Rink Specialists determined that the rink repairs would need to be delayed one season and that, unfortunately, there was a chance that the pipes under the ice might break due to age and stress and could conceivably cause a shutdown during the hockey season. The council - to a man and one woman - took turns expressing surprise and disappointment that what was supposed to be a “fast tracked” project was now delayed by 12 months.

Meantime, the two ice rinks have been “taken down” (thawed out) in an attempt to mitigate the permafrost that is causing the rinks’ pipes to break in the first place.

The rinks will be closed until August when the permafrost will thaw, allowing what is hoped to be a temporary fix. After that, the rinks will be re-frozen in time for the season.

“I’m confused,” said Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian. “I thought this job had to be done this year. I hope we’re looking at alternatives. Let’s consider taking another look at Geo-Thermal,” referring to the company that Skurka recommended and said would offer the city a long-range cost savings and that would use water from Hyde Park Lake to cool and heat the ice Pavilion.

Geo Thermal said they could guarantee they could make the repairs to the Ice Pavilion before the start of the hockey season and finance it without using taxpayer dollars.

Dyster opposed the plan, saying it was risky and ambitious and, more significantly, that Geo Termal had never actually built or designed a hockey rink before.

Meantime, the council showed concern at this turn of events.

“The rinks are down and the city’s losing rent...,” said Councilman Sam Fruscione. “If the rink pipes fail when it’s restarted in August, then we’ve lost the entire hockey season.”

The reality of the slippery situation is:

• May 2013, the normally 12 month-operational Ice Pavilion is closed, as ice is taken down

• August 2013, ice will back up with a chance of pipe failure which might cause its closure during the peak ice hockey season. Ice Rink Specialists have assured the city that they will be available to monitor any emergency repairs and in many but not all instances, depending on where pipes break, repairs can be done within one day.)

• September 2013, bids to be opened for the estimated $630,000 Ice Pavilion repair project.

• April 2014, ice again taken down.

• April-August, Repairs carried out.

• August 2014, Ice Pavilion reopened and ready to operate with new compressors, pipes and new rinks.

The operator, Gene Carella, told the Reporter that, given the alternatives, since the repairs would not be completed by August, "rather than lose the whole season," they would have to take their chances and hope they can get through another year, much like they did last year, with the old pipes and old compressors.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

May 14, 2013