The City of Fernie announced this week that they need to perform necessary roof repairs to the Fernie Memorial Arena, which will cause interruptions to the hockey/skating season. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

The City of Fernie announced this week that they need to perform necessary roof repairs to the Fernie Memorial Arena, which will cause interruptions to the hockey/skating season. Phil McLachlan/The Free Press

City meets with user groups to discuss arena closure

A 3-4 week shut down of the arena in the upcoming season is inevitable, says the City of Fernie

UPDATE: The City said today that the Fernie Memorial Arena will be closed for a four-week period this coming November, during which time they will be repairing the roof trusses. During the shutdown, the Arena will be closed to the public and all user groups.

A three to four week restriction of access to the Fernie Memorial Arena in the upcoming hockey/skating season is inevitable, says the City of Fernie, due to repairs needed to the roof before the snow falls in the winter.

Look back: Fernie arena to reopen this season

The City said that they will be strengthening, not replacing the trusses in the roof, due to age. All work done will be on the interior. The current risk to safety is minimal, they say, unless a heavy load of snow falls on the roof. Without replacing the trusses, it would require manpower to constantly shovel snow off of the roof.

The City met with user groups and key stakeholders on Wednesday night to receive input and discuss what would impact their hockey, and skating seasons, the least. Representatives from Fernie Minor Hockey, Fernie Figure Skating Club, the Leisure Services Committee, The Fernie Academy, Ladies Snow Cats hockey, as well as the Senior Men’s hockey league, were in attendance.

The popular vote was to start the season at the regular time, at the beginning of September, or earlier if possible, and shut down the arena for repairs sometime in mid-to-end of October.

Representatives from the City in attendance were City of Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano, Parks and Facilities Manager Brett Logan, Director of Community Services Marta Proctor, Communications Co-ordinator Alycia McLeod, as well as Zabrina Pendon, Project Manager for the Fernie Memorial Arena renovations with ISL Engineering and Land Services Ltd.

The City of Fernie admitted that prior to a recent ‘financial hiccup’, everything was in place to open the arena on time for the upcoming hockey/skating season. However, when the City privately reached out to seven local contractors for quotes to perform necessary maintenance to the trusses in the roof, only one submitted a bid, which far exceeded the City’s estimated costs.

“It’s not about being frugal, it’s really about being responsible, and being in alignment with our procurement (bylaw),” said Proctor.

“At no point was council or anyone saying, we don’t want to spend the money, we want to make sure what we’re spending the money on, is what we should be.”

The City said they have gone back to the drawing board to re-engineer the project and propose it in a public tender bid to try and solicit more competition, “at competitive pricing.” At the same time, the City says they want to do it right.

“I think in light of the recent report and our due diligence in terms of safety, all of us are very cautious to not go to any extremes, but to be responsible in the decision to address the trusses and do it a safe and responsible manner,” said Proctor.

A stakeholder at the meeting asked the City what they’re prepared to do in the scenario that they do not receive a suitable bid. To this the City said they cannot predict the future; the best they can do is make decisions if that were to happen.

Proctor said that when they reach out in a public tender bid, they predict that there will be contract groups interested in this type of work. She said initially it was predicted that this work was lesser in value.

“We are anticipating to have the tender out for the last week of August,” said project manager Zabrina Pendon.

User groups proposed that when the City releases the new public tender bid, they offer a performance bonus for fast work to minimize impact to them. Also, they requested that if they come across this scenario when choosing a contractor; they favour a more expensive, but faster contractor, than a slower and more cost efficient one. In their opinions, much profit and time will be lost for user groups during that shut down so the less time the arena is shut down, the better.

User groups asked about the possibility of delaying construction until December in alignment with their scheduled break. The City said that although this would favour the timeline of user groups, it would pose a safety risk to the public if snow were to fall unexpectedly, and also pose a safety risk to the workers repairing the trusses.

The City of Fernie recommended two options to user groups: first, delay the opening of the arena, and open early to mid November, or, open September 10 as scheduled, and shut down mid-to-late October.

Representatives of several user groups agreed that delaying the start of their season would hit them hard. They said that their attendance last year was extremely low because athletes were forced to travel for every practice and game. They said that if their season started that way again, they would barely have a hockey/skating season. In terms of ice availability in Sparwood and Elkford, user groups say that in preliminary discussions with the other facilities, available ice times elsewhere are slim, and most slots don’t work for their groups.

“The feedback from the stakeholders is that the preference is to open as soon as we can, and to provide a timeline as soon as we can on when that work will be scheduled, and obviously try to minimize that timeline as much as possible. Is that accurate?” asked Proctor.

User group representatives and stakeholders agreed.

A representative of one of the user groups thanked the City for seeking their input.

“It’s much appreciated. Because we look at it through a different lens than you guys do so thank you,” she said.

The City said that re-engineering for the repairs started Monday, July 30, and user groups should have another update within a week.

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