Arena refrigeration plant replacement still in the works

Plan is to connect plant to curling rink as well

The District of Houston expects to retender arena refrigeration plant project this spring. (File photo)

The District of Houston expects to retender arena refrigeration plant project this spring. (File photo)

The District of Houston remains focused on replacing the 40-year-old ammonia refrigeration plant at the arena and connecting it to the nearby curling rink.

Neither project went ahead as planned last year but staff are now reviewing costs in anticipation of retendering the work.

Bids for the arena plant project were in excess of the $750,000 budget approved by council, causing it to step back and reevaluate the scope of work.

A new arena refrigeration plant will increase efficiency and safety while a connection to the curling rink will restore operations there because that facility’s own refrigeration plant failed a provincial safety inspection last year.

“We are fully expecting this project to be tendered in spring 2019 and constructed over the summer,” said Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck last week.

“To date the District has spent $34,000 from this [$750,000] budget, leaving the present carry forward budget at $716,000,” Pinchbeck said.

“Staff are reviewing this budget for 20199 to ensure that the budget remains appropriate for the scope of work.”

The curling rink connection will be financed by the District as if it were a loan to be repaid by the Houston Curling Club.

“At this time, staff are working with the curling club to reach a final agreement on this matter,” said Pinchbeck.

As of now, the connection cost, along with associated works, is estimated to be in the $80,000 range.

There is a chance the curling rink connection can take place first, but that depends upon an engineering report now in progress and then finding a contractor to do the work.

“However, if the installation timeline will not allow for completion prior to March, we will be waiting unti the full project goes ahead,” said Pinchbeck.

In the meantime, the District and WorkSafe BC have set in place safety measures to mitigate against any potential risk of an ammonia release.

“This has included eliminating parking and pedestrian access to the area adjacent to the existing [refrigeration] plant room, updating our emergency response procedures and developing a contingency plan for any potential emergency ammonia release,” Pinchbeck added.

Inspections of ammonia refrigeration plants were carried out province-wide following a leak at the Fernie arena in October 2017 which claimed three lives.

The Houston Curling Club has been in operation since the 1970s. The club services a men’s league, a mixed league, a seniors and juniors club, School District 54 physical education, and bonspiels.