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Hartford Gets $500,000 Estimate to Replace Wendell A. Barwood Arena Floor, Piping

  • David Dean gives the Wendell Barwood Arena ice a dry shave in White River Junction, Vt., on Nov. 29, 2010. (Valley News — Sarah Priestap) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Hartford — A contractor hired to assess the condition of Wendell A. Barwood Arena says that if the town wants to keep the arena open, it needs to spend about $510,000 to replace the entire floor and piping system.

Even that stiff price tag has a silver lining, said Town Manager Leo Pullar.

“I was thinking it was (going to be) closer to a million,” he told the Selectboard last week. “It’s a pleasant surprise to me. It’s still a big bill, but in my mind it’s about half what we thought it would be.”

Over the past several months, as officials have gained a clearer picture of WABA’s infrastructure deficiencies, they have reluctantly indicated a willingness to spend millions there, in part to protect a $2.4 million investment in arena renovations that were approved by the public in 2013.

The steel piping system that has been used to freeze the arena since about 1990 has been badly corroded by the brine solution it uses as a refrigerant, according to a report from Preferred Contractors, Inc., the Pembroke, Mass.-based firm that won the $2,400 contract to perform the assessment.

“The cold floor … piping was not designed correctly,” reads the report, adding that the metal has become so rotten that the corrosion “will lead to a steel failure.”

John Meade, project leader for Preferred Contractors, said on Monday that it’s impossible to predict how long the pipes, which run beneath the concrete floor, will continue to function.

“We can’t tell you if it’s going to last a week, a month, a year or five years,” he said. “We don’t know.”

If the steel is compromised during the season, he said, the brine will leak out onto the arena floor, melting the ice. Should that happen, he said, the steel will probably not support patch repairs, which means “you could be shut down for the season,” until the floor and piping can be replaced. The floor itself is marred by cracks, some of them a quarter-inch wide, and has a large concrete patch at the site of a previous short-term repair to the piping system.

In March, the Selectboard approved $591,000 in repairs, of which $514,000 was spent to replace the aged refrigeration system.

The funding for that round of repairs came from unspent surplus funds in a variety of line items in the town’s current year operating budget, but it’s not yet clear where the town will turn to fund the floor replacement.

Scott Hausler, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said on Monday that he’s trying to get the best possible information to the town officials who will ultimately figure out how much to spend, and where to get the money from.

“We provide the Selectboard with the pertinent information, estimated costs and recommendations so they are able to decide on a way forward,” Hausler said.

Barwood Arena, formerly known as the BOR Arena, was built around 1975, and has been the subject of a series of ad hoc additions and upgrades over the years.

The 2013 bond paid for a new lobby, locker rooms, a roof and better lighting, though plans for an addition were scrapped after cost estimates proved to be low.

In addition to the floor replacement, there are other significant costs associated with keeping the arena open.

Town officials have said the arena’s north wall is so poorly insulated that daylight can be seen from inside the building. Though no formal cost estimates have been generated, former Selectman Mike Morris, who is a building contractor, said he expected the wall project to cost between $500,000 and $1 million.

The assessment report also recommended spending about $175,000 to replace the aging dasher board system encircling the rink.

The dashers have no give to them, and have been slowly damaged over the decades by repeated collisions with players and the arena’s Zamboni, said Pullar.

Hausler said he’s working on a replacement plan for the wall, and he has not yet identified a recommended timeline for the repairs.

“The floor system and dasher boards will remain in use, but we need to put a replacement plan in place,” Hausler said.

Meade said on Monday that he doesn’t believe the dashers are in immediate danger of toppling over, but said there are gaps between boards that are large enough to trap the blade of a hockey stick, posing a hazard to players.

Pullar and Hausler have also recommended that the Selectboard establish a capital reserve fund to safeguard the arena against the risk of future catastrophic system failures.

“Over time, when done correctly, we don’t have unexpected failures in critical infrastructure,” Hausler said.

Meade said that his company is unlikely to provide further consulting work on the project, because to do so would disqualify it from bidding on the work.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.