Stellarton commission votes to keep rink open

Published on June 23, 2014

STELLARTON – The Stellarton Memorial Rink will be making ice this fall.

In a vote of 4-2, members of the town's rink commission voted in favour of keeping ice in the 68-year-old building after a lengthy debate on the financial costs of maintaining and operating the facility as an ice rink. 

Commission members were presented financial statements which showed the rink would have a deficit of close to $60,000 this fiscal year, but an engineering report on the building's structure showed that it could still functional for at least another decade. 

Town engineer Bob Funke outlined pros and cons of the building saying that the concrete floor is the biggest concern and will eventually have to be replaced, which could end up costing the town six figures. 

"Over time it will get worse because of more water, more freezing and it will become a more challenging floor," he said. "But staff are aware of it and they are watching it." 

He said the structural steel in the building is in good shape and the electrical panel is old but working fine. The ammonia plant that cools the brine and makes ice is in good condition, but there are some leaks in the brine system under the rink's surface. 

"One area under the boards is most troublesome," he said. "Ice freezes from the centre towards the sides and it makes for slower ice near the boards." 

He said because of this it takes a little longer to make ice at the sides of the rink, but this is a maintenance issue and depends largely on the skill involved in making the ice. 

The ceiling liner used to control the temperature of the rink in the winter time is old, but still works to some degree, he said. The ice plant is made up of two compressors, one of which was rebuilt  in 2010. 

"They are stressed at the start of the year when they are trying to make ice so it  limits when the rink can start up, but there are no challenges to exist where they are."

Funke said some of the boards in the stands need to be replaced because of rot, but this can be done over a period of time rather than becoming a major maintenance issue. 

The rink is due for a code compliance inspection in 2015, but he doesn't anticipate any major issues with the exception of a few emergency lights. 

"Notwithstanding what I said about the floor, It can sustain this level of service for another five to 10 years," he said. "I can't predict the concrete floor. Eventually it will have to be replaced, but I can't say when."

Some commission members questioned why the town would continue to operate the rink at a deficit and continue to pay into the deficit of the Pictou County Wellness Centre. 

"We are contributing $250,000 to the Wellness Centre deficit," said Coun. Denise Taylor. "If we didn't have ice rentals here and we went over there, we wouldn't be paying as much to the Wellness Centre's deficit because its usage would increase." 

She suggested that the commission not put ice in the rink this fall, but continue to use it for other functions to generate revenue. In the summer months, the rink is used for bingo and Stellarton Homecoming functions. 

"I want to make a good sound decision about what is best for Stellarton and our partners in the community," she said."

Stellarton Mayor Joe Gennoe disagreed with Taylor saying that if the town's $70,000 in ice rentals shifted to the Wellness Centre, it would have little impact on the building's deficit because the payment is based on a percentage. 

"If you close it for a year, you close it for good," he said. "Even if the rink had no ice, it still needs maintenance.