Anyone living in Alaska in the winter may think making and maintaining ice is about the easiest thing in the world to do, but it can be quite a tricky and expensive process just ask maintenance workers at the Soldotna Sports Center.
The center's staff have been struggling with the building's ice refrigeration system to the tune of $10,000 in repairs this season.
Andrew Carmichael, Soldotna's parks and recreation director, told the Soldotna City Council at its Wednesday meeting that the system's controller has essentially been nothing but trouble lately.
"It's kind of one of those gifts that's given and given after being given to the lowest bidder years ago," he said. "... We've got a system right now that is undependable."
The system is 14 years old, which isn't unreasonably old, but the controller became obsolete five years after it was installed, Carmichael said. The controller fails on a regular basis and is so complicated that only one person in the city is able to repair it.
With the Arctic Winter Games on the horizon and the possibility that the one maintenance worker able to deal with the system may retire, Carmichael brought the problem to the council hoping for a remedy.
He proposed two solutions. The first is to replace the controller system, which would cost an estimated $40,000 to $50,000. Though this is the lower-cost option, just replacing the controller system would essentially only defer the problem. The system still would be extremely complicated to operate, would require extended training and maintenance costs and likely would be obsolete again in another five years, Carmichael said.
The other option he brought to the council is to replace the system's chiller vessel, which is the mechanical system that creates and maintains the ice. This option has a much higher price tag $150,000 but is the one Carmichael recommends because it would improve the system's dependability, reduce the costs of staff maintenance and training and be much easier to repair, he said.
The council took no action on the matter, but plans to address it in the future.
Also on Wednesday, the council:
Approved transferring some leases for lots at the airport.
Updated the list of authorized signatures required on checks for city of Soldotna bank accounts.
Approved appointing Marilyn Kebschull and Trena Richardson to the city's planning and zoning commission.
Authorized renewing the lease agreement with Red Line Sports for a retail concession at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Approved renaming Lee Lane and Kristin Drive in the Loren Lake Subdivision to Annika Lane and Castenholz Drive.
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