Kent's ShoWare Center ice plant repairs to cost $95,000

The Kent City Council approved a $95,000 contract to repair the city-owned arena
The Kent City Council approved a $95,000 contract to repair the city-owned arena's ice plant equipment, including a problem compressor.
— image credit: Kent Reporter, file photo

The city of Kent's ShoWare Center operating budget will take a $95,000 hit because of improperly working ice plant equipment.

The City Council approved a $95,000 contract on May 6 with Oregon-based PermaCold Engineering, Inc., to repair the equipment that forms ice on the arena floor.

Council members also approved a resolution to declare an emergency for the repairs in order to waive the normal requirement where several companies would submit bids to make the fix.

"For the last couple of years we've been having ongoing difficulties with our ice plant," said Ben Wolters, city economic and community development director, at the council's Operations Committee meeting last week. "We've tried to deal with it within the context of our normal maintenance and operation agreement we have with SMG (the arena operators) and their maintenance contractor McKinstry, who has been doing the primary maintenance.

"We've had several instances over the last two years where we've had foreign material in the machinery of the ice plant. Most recently, we had two key pumps go out simultaneously and that's absolutely unheard of in the industry."

The normal bid process takes about two months. City officials were concerned that would make it impossible to make the repairs by Aug. 4 when the Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team starts its hockey school.

"There would not be time to test the ice and have it ready," Wolters said.

The T-Birds, the arena's anchor tenant, nearly had to move two playoff games out of the ShoWare because the equipment failed and the ice had turned to water on a Monday morning before a Tuesday night game. Arena staff made a few quick, temporary repairs to get the compressors working again and the ice ready for the game.

Councilman Les Thomas asked Wolters if the city would need to increase the $500,000 it sets aside each year in the general fund budget to cover operating deficits at the ShoWare Center. The arena has revenue losses of $2.4 million since it opened in 2009.

"The answer would be no," Wolters said. "We believe the $500,000 annually the council has allocated for the operating budget for the ShoWare Center should cover this expense at this point in time."

The information PermaCold finds during the repair also could aid the city as it pursues a claim to recover costs associated with the ice plant equipment.

"It will help us to evaluate if there is a basis for a claim against any party that has had a role in either the installation, manufacturing or maintenance of it," Wolters said.

Council President Dana Ralph said she had concerns about additional costs beyond the $95,000 in case PermaCold finds equipment might need to be replaced rather than repaired.

Wolters said any additional costs of more than $5,000 would be closely monitored and brought back to the mayor, city officials and council leaders for input.

"My anticipation is we will not find anything big but if we do we will pursue it and do it in consultation," Wolters said.

Ralph said the repairs are necessary.

"I would almost rather we find something than keep guessing and replacing," she said. "The only thing we can do is get into the compressors and take a look and see what's going on. That seems to be a very reasonable diagnostic course."



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