The Kiwanis Ice Arena, the chilly jewel of Saugerties whose long-term fate has been a point of contention among town officials for nearly a decade, is still in need of repair or replacement. At their organizational meeting on Jan. 2, the Saugerties Town Council voted 4-0 to green light the bidding process, allowing contractors to present plans and cost estimates for their consideration.
Councilman Paul Andreassen, who served as town building inspector for four communities in Ulster County before he was elected to the town board, abstained from the vote.
“I’d like to see a job scope and what exactly is going to be involved in specifications that is going out to bid,” Andreassen said. “… It has to be specific — exactly what’s going to be bid. You can’t just say, ‘Give me a price to put a roof on.’”
The polyethylene fabric panels making up the arena’s roof, according to Parks and Buildings Supervisor Greg Chorvas, began “pixellating,” or ripping like a cracked windshield, in 2014. The rapidity of the process has accelerated since, and when Chorvas approached the board again in 2017 he was “worried that [it] wouldn’t make it through the season.” That year, a report from Legacy Building Solutions warned that the 18-year-old structure had begun to deteriorate, and that there was “no permanent repair solution for the damage that is occurring, and the use of temporary adhesive products is the only way to mitigate the damage and help keep [precipitation] out of the building.” Since then, the ice arena staff has been using a special tape provided by the manufacturer to patch tears as they appear.
“I’m frustrated that this has not moved along fairly quickly,” said Chorvas, the loudest advocate for the facility. “A lot of my frustrations are based on my concerns that we don’t make it through this season due to a heavy snow or ice event. The structural integrity has been jeopardized and we [could have to] to close the facility … if the ice arena had to close, it would have a detrimental economic impact. Beside the lost revenue that’s already budgeted, there would be a loss of jobs, the economic domino effect … no one is going to be spending their money, no one is going to be coming to Saugerties.”
Should one panel give way, the ice arena would be closed — perhaps, Chorvas said, for an entire skating season. When the structure was built in 2001, the covering over the ice sheet cost about $287,000, which came to the town with the help of former state senator John Bonacic.
Town officials estimate that the entirety of the roof replacement process this time around would cost upwards of a million dollars — building codes have changed in the past 18 years, disallowing the cheaper polyethylene material for recreational use. The replacement would include replacing the roof with PVC panels that utilize the existing trusses and new steel walls and will have a lifespan of about 25 years.
“[The arena] is an economic engine. There is a positive effect back into the community in Saugerties, Ulster County, the Hudson Valley and beyond,” said Chorvas, detailing all of the local hotels and restaurants that get patronage from arena users. “In 2017, the ice arena generated $307,000 in revenues; in 2018 we’re expected to go over … slightly over $330,000 in revenue. Expenses, which again, we don’t have a definitive handle on because the final books have not been completed, but our expenses will be between $290,000 and $295,000.”
Currently, the Town of Saugerties has about $618,000 allocated for the project, most of it from a state grant facilitated by state Sen. George Amedore, R-Rotterdam. The board hoped to cover the remainder of the projected cost with money from the Regional Economic Development Council grants, but the ice arena didn’t make the cut this year. Town Supervisor Fred Costello said any costs incurred that would exceed the allotted money would “need to be discussed” — funding options include the town’s Recreation Trust Fund, money raised by Kiwanis at the Garlic Festival, which helped pay for the original structure, or the town’s fund balance.
Costello expects bids from contractors for the project to become available in the “next few weeks” — if one is accepted, he gauged that construction will start in April. That being said, this time last year, Chorvas estimated that the project would be underway by fall of 2018.
The PVC piping also has a 25-year warranty but could outlast that amount of time – however, it isn’t permanent.
Andreassen said that he “doesn’t think we should do away with the rink” and that the structure is “important” to the economy and identity of the community — however, from his perspective, things aren’t quite as dire, and more prudent consideration is in order. He suggests that rather than replacing the roof, the existing tearing could be knitted together with heat welding. That option, Andreassen said, was considered and forgotten in 2014 — he said that this could give the town an opportunity to seek out more funding. Costello said welding, which would cost just $9,000, was never an option.
“We have been clearly advised that a heat-welding repair would damage the fabric further — the adhesive patches have so far prevented ‘zippering’ tears in the fabric, [and] we did not see the benefit in commissioning a further study,” Costello said. “Studies are tricky — [opponents of the replacement] questioning the study because they’re saying the people that are offering the advise have the motivation to sell rather than offering other opportunities. In my view, we met with them and they said we could do this, this, this or this. They’ve been consistent and it has led to the scenario we’re in right now.”
Andreassen suggests that the next steps for the rink should be determined with a public referendum: “Something like this would need to be approved by all the voters, not by five people.” If the community is amenable, Andreassen said it would be most prudent to replace the structure entirely. An estimate that he commissioned from C.T. Male came in at over $7.1 million.
In a similar vein, Andreassen thinks that a committee that includes local skating enthusiasts, Kiwanis members and those with stakes in the rink should be formed — he said that he offered to chair such a committee in 2017 before running for public office and was ignored by the then-board. Further scrutiny, he said, needs to be applied; perhaps, he said, the rink could be used year-round or turned into a multiplex facility to maximize its benefit to the community.
“The only people to look into [options for the ice arena] are in the business of selling new covers of varying designs,” said Andreassen. “I don’t believe any objective opinions were sought. No matter how you look at it, we are using taxpayer monies and they should know all the decisions being made, and by whom, on their dime.”
“I see the validity of Paul’s point,” said Councilman John Schoonmaker. “If we build a more permanent structure we won’t have to fix it again. But we’re already struggling — how much can we bond that ice arena? I can’t envision another path forward other than a tax increase. I don’t think it would be the right time.
“The responsible route is to replace it with the Hybrid PVC panel, not have to worry about it for 25 years,” Schoonmaker continued. “With that in place, we could put more money in the fund reserve balance and eventually create a capital reserve fund specifically for building a more permanent structure for the ice arena.”