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Council to consider $1.9 million fix for Rotary Place this week

Potential bill comes on top of $425k approved by council for an interim cooling system last week; Staff are also recommending putting community fridge idea on ice
City council will consider a $1.9 million fix for Rotary Place's cooling system on Wednesday. The arena has been without functioning ice pads since October, when issues with a heat exchanger forced the city to remove the ice. The issue was compounded when the recent Legionella outbreak was linked to the arena’s cooling tower, which has prevented the ice pads from reopening.

With Rotary Place’s ice pads out of commission following the second Legionella outbreak traced to the facility's cooling towers since 2019, city council will consider a $1.9 million fix to the arena’s refrigeration system at Wednesday’s meeting.

The potential bill comes on top of $425,000 approved by council last week to rent an interim cooling system for up to 18 months.

The recent rink shutdown and outbreak occurred in spite of a “robust maintenance and sampling plan” implemented following the Legionella outbreak in 2019 that was linked to the arena's cooling tower, noted a staff report to be discussed Wednesday. (Council typically meets Mondays but the new council opted to reschedule a council committee meeting originally slated for Nov. 28 and a council meeting set for Dec. 5 on Wednesday).

The current system used to keep the ice frozen, which is water-based, carries the possibility for Legionella spread when the waterborne bacteria latch onto aerosolized water vapour created during the cooling process, said the staff report.

City staff prepared three options for council to consider, all of which utilize a dry, air-cooled “chiller system,” which eliminates the risk of future Legionella outbreaks.

“The reason for this focus is that these solutions eliminate the occurrence of airborne diseases such as Legionella,” said the staff report. “All options would phase-in a transition from interim solution to long-term solution, to minimize disruption to ice user groups and take advantage of ice-out periods, wherever possible.”

The recommended option from staff comes in at $1.9 million for a self-contained compressor system and outdoor dry condenser. With an estimated timeline of 15-18 months, this option will take longest, but will have no impact on the city’s operating expenses.

“Despite having the highest overall capital investment, this option would not increase operating expenses, would require minimal changes to operations, while also renewing assets associated with Rotary Place’s refrigeration system,” said the staff report.

“This would minimize the risk of future service disruptions at the facility and would enable the heat reclamation system to function, thus avoiding additional (greenhouse gas) emissions.”

The second option, outdoor chiller units, comes in at $1.8 million with an annual operating impact of $40,000-$50,000 for natural gas; there is also the risk of vandalism, noted staff.

The final option, which would involve re-working the existing compressor equipment and installing a dry cooler, requires the lowest initial investment, at $960,000, but will carry an annual operating impact of $40,000-$50,000 for natural gas and $250,000-$450,000+ for required plant upgrades.

The final two options will lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions, staff noted, on top of their inflated operating costs.

The staff report did not provide any options for moving forward with the current cooling system at Rotary Place, which is less than 15 years old.

Among other items on the agenda Wednesday, city council will also consider whether to forward a community fridge initiative to the 2023 budget deliberations.

The idea was initially brought to council by an Orillia Secondary School Student in June, who hoped to bring an outdoor, community fridge to the city as a destigmatized, easily accessible source of food for those in need.

However, city staff currently recommend against pursuing the idea.

“Developing and operating a community fridge initiative requires robust operations, staffing and maintenance plans, strong partnerships typically led by local food advocacy experts, as well as a sustainable donations and promotions plan to maintain awareness and interest,” said a staff report.

“Opportunities may exist for the city to support and promote community fridge organizations and partnerships within the community.  However, taking the lead role in such an initiative is not within the city’s core services or current staffing complement to provide at this time.”

Wednesday's council committee meeting is scheduled to start at 10 am. Current council agendas, as well as links to meeting live streams can be found on the city website.

There is also a planning meeting at 2:30 p.m. related to plans to construct 12- and 14-storey buildings as part of the second phase of the Sundial Lakeview Retirement Home.

A city council meeting will follow the planning meeting at which decisions made earlier in the day will be subject to ratification.

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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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