The discovery of lead paint at Fernie Memorial Arena has delayed ongoing roof truss repairs and the highly-anticipated reopening of the community ice rink.
The Free Press has learned, however, that the contractor engaged by the City of Fernie was never required to complete the work by December 1, the date suggested to user groups affected by the closure.
The City has provided The Free Press with the contract for the roof repairs, which shows Tyee Log Homes Ltd has until December 5 to finish the job, valued at $256,214.70 including tax.
The contract includes a bonus/penalty clause that stipulates the Kimberley-based company will receive a bonus $1500 per calendar day if the work is completed prior to the contract end date.
Any delays and Tyee will be penalized the same amount.
City of Fernie Chief Administrative Officer Norm McInnis said the work started on November 7 as per the contract and was going as planned until the discovery of lead paint.
“The work was shut down for three days because there was some lead paint that needed to be removed, so WorkSafe came in and had to make sure that the contractors had a safe work procedure to do that lead paint removal,” he said.
Under the terms of the contract, the City is required to allow the contractor an extra three days, which means Tyee is not obligated to finish the repairs until December 8.
McInnis said Tyee has two crews working 12-hours a day and the City is satisfied with the speed at which the work is being completed.
“They’re doing their best to get the work done,” he said.
The delay has cast doubt on the Fernie Ghostriders’ game against the Kimberley Dynamiters on December 1.
Ghostriders President Barb Anderson said it is disappointing.
“The biggest challenge is toting all of our supplies around, which is a pain, and obviously the gathering point for our team and fans,” she said.
“It has been a long difficult time which we will get through. Once again we have been blessed to have such good neighbours in Sparwood who have once again helped us out and have looked after us very well.”
The uncertainty surrounding the reopening of the arena is also causing headaches for Fernie Minor Hockey, which now has to reschedule more league games as well as a tournament.
“It has been extremely frustrating,” said President Tracey Kelly.
“My ice coordinator, he has spent hours and hours of his personal time after his paid job trying to put together schedules that he then has to revamp because he’s been given incorrect or incomplete information from the City, and has had to scramble to try to locate alternate choices for the kids.
“It’s been kind of a nightmare.”
The minor hockey tournament was scheduled for December 7-9 and involved seven teams from the U.S. and Alberta.
Kelly said the decision to cancel the event affects the club’s fundraising ability as well as local businesses, which benefit from visiting teams.
“Our tournaments bring a lot of people to town in shoulder season when the skiing has not yet ramped up and biking has wound down, so on average we bring about $50,000 a weekend into the community with hotel stays, restaurants, shopping etc.,” she said.
Kelly said the club will try to reschedule the tournament for later in the season but expects it will be hard to attract teams with scheduling done well in advance.
Hotel availability over winter is also an issue.
In early August, The Free Press reported that a three- to four-week restriction of access to the Fernie Memorial Arena was inevitable due to repairs needed to the roof trusses before snow falls.
The news came as residents were eagerly awaiting the reopening of the facility, which had been closed since the arena tragedy on October 17, 2017.
In conversations with the City, user groups voted to start the season at the beginning of September and shut down the arena for repairs after mid-October.
On September 26, the City announced the contract for the roof truss repairs had been awarded and the shutdown would begin on November 4.
It anticipated the work would take four weeks to complete and, acting on the City’s advice, user groups began planning their return to the rink for December 1.
On November 16, the City advised the work would not be completed by the promised date, with Director of Community Services Marta Proctor describing the timeline as “ambitious”.
Kelly said communication between the City and user groups could be improved.
According to Kelly, minor hockey was never told the contract end date and had been operating on the assumption that the arena would reopen on December 1.
The club only learned of the delays to the roof repairs after contacting the City, which subsequently issued a statement to The Free Press then emailed user groups.
“Clear communication would definitely be beneficial,” said Kelly.
“Had we realized that the contract ran into December, we probably would not have taken the risk of booking games on December 1.
“It’s a big deal because it impacts other teams and their seasons, and then trying to fit those games in somewhere is not that easy.”
McInnis insisted the City has been “totally upfront” with user groups about the work.
He said the City is still hopeful the arena will reopen by December 5 or earlier.
“Tyee is aware of the (Ghostriders) game on December 1,” said McInnis.
“There are certain things like the announcer’s booth that may not be put back in place. If we can get people in there safely, with no safety concerns, we will get activity going on in the arena as quickly as we can.
“We knew this was coming, it’s unfortunate. I think the Ghostriders in particular have had some really good crowds at home and to interrupt that mid season is not ideal.”
Anderson indicated a decision about the Dynamiters game will be made on Wednesday.
“Right now we are hoping the City will be done for the December 1 game. Nothing else has been confirmed,” she said.
Anderson said she does not know the details of the contract but has been in close contact with the City’s Director of Leisure Services
She declined to comment on the City’s handling of the closure.