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Skating rink compressor repairs postponed (again)

BRATTLEBORO—Launching the repairs on the Nelson Withington Skating Facility at Living Memorial Park has stalled. Again.

The Selectboard tabled giving the go-ahead at its June 18 meeting when the lone bid to repair the compressor came in $109,000 over the town’s estimate.

Recreation & Parks Director Carol Lolatte presented the bid from American Refrigeration Company, Inc., based in Andover, Mass. The company holds the contract for maintaining the rink refrigeration equipment at the facility.

Lolatte said a second bid arrived after the town’s deadline and was disqualified.

Refrigeration for ice rinks is a specialized field, and the town did not expect to receive many bids, Lolatte said.

I.B. Story, an independent consulting company in Canada, provided the town with multiple options for budget and scope of work, input which informed the town’s estimate of what a reasonable bid would look like.

Surprised by the size of American Refrigeration’s bid, and in light of the town’s $364,000 project budget, Lolatte said she asked I.B. Story to review and explain it.

According to Town Manager Barbra Sondag, the consultant reviewed the bid and spoke with American Refrigeration for further explanations. I.B. Story determined the bid was realistic.

Lolatte said that, three hours before the board meeting started, Recreations & Parks Department staff found a $100,000 grant through the Vermont Community Foundation that could make up much of the difference.

Board members said, however, that they felt uncomfortable voting on a budget that seemed to continually shift, and tabled the discussion.

Time is an element here. At the board meeting, Lolatte and Sondag reminded the board that the project — converting the compressors to ones that used ammonium — required the special ordering of equipment. Delaying that order beyond July could push back the start of the rink’s season opening.

Town Meeting Members voted to approve funds to refurbish the ice rink’s compressors at the Annual Representative Town Meeting in March. One of the rink’s two compressors broke down shortly before the end of the rink’s season.

As voted, the $364,000 repairs would be repaid through rink user fees over 20 years.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #209 (Wednesday, June 26, 2013).

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