Arena ammonia plant replacement approved

Outside grants helped close financing gap

First proposed last year, the project to replace the aging ammonia plant at the Claude Parish Arenais now going ahead. (file photo)

The District of Houston council has given the go ahead for the project to replace the aging ice-making ammonia plant at the Claude Parish Memorial Arena.

Key to the project was receiving a $250,000 grant from the Northern Development Initiative Trust and allocating $150,000 from a provincial grant to complete the financing needed for the $816,072 project.

The District had wanted to replace the plant last year but when costs exceeded the budget set out then, the project was put on hold.

The Northern Development Initiative Trust board approved its grant April 24, the same day District of Houston tenders for the project closed.

Council May 2 approved taking $150,000 from the $4.486 million one-time provincial Northern Capital and Planning grant it received in February to fully finance the project.

The new plant is needed to meet current WorkSafe BC standards and followed a province-wide assessment and inspection of ice-making facilities across the province following a leak at the Fernie arena in October 2017 which claimed three lives.

“The new refrigeration plant will not only create a safer working environment for staff and present less of an ammonia risk to users, the increased efficiency will reduce the environmental impact the facility has,” said Houston mayor Shane Brienen in commenting on the Northern Development Initiative Trust grant.

“This major improvement to the facility will result in decreased operational costs and advancement toward more efficient technology.”

The project is now to cost $945,072, indicated a briefing note prepared for council, with the majority of the money, $815,059, to be spent on the plant itself.

When tenders closed, DevCon Industrial Services was the only bidder, and council May 2 gave its approval for the contract to be executed.

A further $100,000 is to be spent on a new plant room and tenders for this work will be issued.

There’s also a contingency amount within the project budget.

Staffers did say council could use dividends from the Dungate Community Forest or federal gas tax grants to close the final gap in financing but noted Dungate revenue allocations are to be the subject of future deliberations and that there are plans already to use gas tax revenues.

That left using money from the Northern Capital and Planning grant as the most viable option.

Council was also given the option of retendering the project in hopes of a lower price but “given the significant increase in demand for refrigeration mechanical services, it is not likely that prices will decrease,” the briefing note stated.

“Continued operation [of the current plant] will increase the risk of a system failure and ammonia leak, particularly as components deteriorate further,” council was told.

The project scope includes work needed to connect the ammonia plant to the adjacent curling club. Its own ammonia plant was taken out of service last year and the club has now done work within its facility in preparation for connecting to the new arena plant.

The curling club will reimburse the District over time for the connection.

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