A piece of equipment that played a part in the Fernie Memorial Arena tragedy, which cost three lives last year, is also causing problems for Penticton’s Curling Club.
Club manager Cathy Jones said they discovered they were losing ammonia in their ice plant over the past season.
“Normally you install 300 pounds of ammonia at the beginning of the season, and we had to add an additional 200 pounds this past season,” said Jones.
With the curling season over and the plant shut down, Jones said they were able to have pressure tests done that tracked the ammonia leak to the chiller unit.
Jones said that though the final report on the Fernie incident is yet to be released, she has confirmation that the chiller was a factor in the tragedy.
The chiller will have to be replaced if the club is to reopen in the fall. By itself, that unit is going to cost $67,000. That’s more than the $50,000 Jones said she budgeted for the maintenance of the ice plant.
It’s just part of the costs the curling club is facing. Jones said they are past the lifespan of the ice plant, and they have to also meet new safety protocols.
“The club has been doing what it has needed to keep the ice plant in operational order. Due to the tragedy of Fernie, some protocols have been implemented in terms of ammonia-based plants in terms of operation,” said Jones. “We had a WorksafeBC inspection in the early parts of the year to provide us with a list of work needing to be done.”
Safety measures have already been increased, including an alarm system for ammonia leaks, training for key personnel, enhanced safety gear for the ice technician and other measures.
Jones has a long list of other repairs and upgrades that need to be completed over the summer to meet the new protocols, but there is still more that is needed.
“Our condenser and second compressor are well past their life expectancy and could break down at any time,” said Jones. “You are dealing with a 45-year-old plant.”
The club is asking city council for financial backing in a matching grant application, due by July 31.
Jones told council there are two options, the first being to revamp the whole ice plant, which is estimated to cost $218,000. That could be paid for in a number of ways, she said, including the city covering the whole bill. Or, if the matching grant is successful, splitting the local portion between the city and the club, with each contributing $55,000.
“The club cannot come up with half of $218,000. We will struggle to come up with the quarter amount, but we will,” said Jones. “We would have a new plant that should well exceed my life capacity.”
The other option would be to do only the repairs needed to meet requirements and ensure safety. That would max out at about $94,000.
The deadline for the grant also puts city council under pressure. Jones said in order to present a solid grant proposal, the club would need the city to indicate they are on board.
“The only piece I am missing to submit this grant is the financial backing or commitment,” said Jones.
Council was reluctant to move too quickly on making a financial commitment. Mayor Andrew Jakubeit noted city council had only received Jones’ report the previous day.
“I think there is support here, we have to just figure out the logistics of what is the best fit for us,” said Jakubeit. Council voted unanimously to refer the matter to staff for more information, with a request it be brought back to council as soon as possible, which the mayor said might be as early as next Tuesday.
“We don’t want to leave it to the last day either, so we will try to get to you as soon as possible,” Jakubeit said.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News