Council reviews chiller decision, stays the course

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CENTRAL MANITOULIN – The contentious decision to install a new chiller in the Providence Bay arena, rather than the busier Mindemoya arena, was called back to the council table at the request of Councillor Dale Scott. 

Council accepted Councillor Scott’s request to put Motion 234-19 on the floor for reconsideration and discussion. According to the town’s policies and procedures, in order for the motion to be brought back for reconsideration, the motion had to be put on the table by one of the members of council who originally voted in favour of the motion, those being Councillor Derek Stephens, Councillor Angela Johnston and Al Tribinevicius. The motion to reconsider was moved by Councillor Johnston and seconded by Councillor Tribinevicius. 

“I wanted to revisit this motion,” Councillor Scott said, “because things had changed since the vote took place. At that time, we were not going ahead with changes to the Mindemoya arena.” 

“They are already working on installing the chiller at Prov,” the councillor continued. “No one has picked up tender applications for Mindemoya. We are still going to need Prov. The work has started; I don’t think we can stop.” 

Councillor Steve Shaffer reminded council that during the capital considerations a decision was made that the chillers at both arenas would be changed and that replacing the chillers at both was recommended by the town’s insurance agent for safety reasons. Councillor Shaffer also mentioned the chiller incident “out west.”

On October 17, 2017, three arena workers in the town of Fernie, British Columbia were killed while working on an arena chiller. A small ammonia leak in that chiller was discovered in the spring of 2017. The chiller was put into service in October of that year and the next day there was an ammonia release that killed the three workers. The arena’s ammonia refrigeration plant was replaced with a system using synthetic non-toxic Freon gas as the coolant. 

“We said we would do one one year and one the next year,” Councillor Shaffer continued. 

“Since then, we’ve had this feasibility study and we decided to go ahead with two arenas. That does not negate safety. I am sad that it is going to Prov. The risk is much higher in Mindemoya—six times higher. From a risk analysis, it seems to me we would have put it in Mindemoya. I don’t know where we go from here. Anything we do now will cost money. From a mitigation point of view, we put it in the arena that we shouldn’t have.” 

At this point, Mayor Richard Stephens reminded council that the letter of inspection was not for now, but was for in the near future. “Maybe the solution,” he said, “is to do both arenas as we had planned.” 

“I don’t believe,” Councillor Scott then said, “that work and installation are the same. We only have a report for Mindemoya. I know some of the prep work was done in Mindemoya and that work was stopped. The advisory given for Mindemoya says that the insurance recommendation has been lowered to 20 years from 25 years. I felt that it was worthy to discuss this as things have changed since the other motion.” 

Councillor Linda Farquhar then asked how long it would take for delivery of a new chiller and was told six weeks by the CAO/clerk.

Councillor Shaffer said the Providence Bay arena normally opens a month later than Mindemoya and Councillor Johnston asserted that she did not know that any work was being done at the Providence Bay arena. “I think we should shut things down and save money,” she said. “Next season I don’t think we should have two arenas going. If we are going to go ahead with a new centre, we should shut Mindemoya down.” 

“If they are working on a new arena, the chiller should go to Prov,” Councillor Tribinevicius observed. “This arena will have to shut down during construction.” 

“I was told that the chiller was going to Prov by council,” CAO/Clerk Ruth Frawley said. “That’s what I did.” 

“Probably no area to store a chiller in Mindemoya, so I think it had to go to Prov,” Councillor Tribinevicius added. 

Councillor Stephens then emphatically said, “I made the motion and I am not withdrawing it.” Councillor Scott expressed reservations about the expenditures. “I have very grave concerns about the large amount of money for equipment for the two arenas. Chillers, pumps. $260,000 if you add them all up. I have a grave concern with the money from taxpayers if we do the repairs. I would urge caution in the spending of money for the arenas.” 

Following the lively arena discussion, council appointed the following members to the multi-use recreation application steering committee. Mayor Stephens, Councillors Johnston, Tribinevicius and Scott, Leslie McDermid, George Popowich, Brien Phelps, Ron Wouthius, Jordan Smith, Lana Kutchaw and Marcus Mohr. Councillor Farquhar had originally been on the steering committee, but she asked to withdraw saying she believes the multi-purpose facility is too expensive as it stands.