Thursday August 22, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Selectboard has appointed the five people to serve on the new Skating Rink Committee.

The board formed the committee to help figure out what to do about the Nelson Withington Skating Facility at Living Memorial Park, which could need up to $500,000 in repairs to update the equipment there.

At the board's meeting Tuesday night the board named Evan Chadwick, Don Dompier, Bob Rueter, Randy Smith and Rick Sullivan to review all of the options concerning the skating rink equipment and present the board with a recommendation to address the long term needs of the rink.

The town received seven letters of interest from people who wanted to serve on the committee and interviewed the candidates at a special meeting Tuesday before the regular board meeting.

Tim Cuthbertson and John DeAngelis also offered to serve on the committee.

Since the rink is used by residents, as well as by people who live outside of Brattleboro, the Selectboard agreed to allow non-residents to serve on the committee

Smith has coached junior athletes for 25 years and has a son who plays hockey.

As the business manager at The Putney School, Smith said he is familiar with working with older buildings and equipment and making tough financial decisions on deferred maintenance and construction management.

"I am used to being creative with limited resources," Smith said.

Dompier, owner of Dompier Electric, has been working with refrigeration for 50 years, and he said he wanted to make sure that if the town was going to invest money in the rink that someone was on the committee who understood the options.

Dompier has been critical of the most recent decision to invest in the existing equipment.

Chadwick said he was passionate about hockey.

He wrote a blog, he said, last year on the Brattleboro hockey program and has coached youth basketball.

"I am in a position to advocate for the children," he said. "This will effect the town, not just this year or next year but for years to come."

Sullivan said he has skated on every ice rink in Vermont.

He is a referee for Brattleboro Hockey, is a member of the Brattleboro Outing Club and has served on committees in Newfane and Dummerston.

He is interested in making sure the rink has the proper equipment but also said if he was on the committee he would make decisions that were responsible toward the taxpayers.

"I am interested in seeking a balance," he said. "I don't want to spend money and burn the taxpayer but I am interested in keeping the rink open. I want to use my experience to help figure that out."

Rueter is a member of the Brattleboro Energy Committee and he told the Selectboard that the energy committee wanted to have input in the decisions that were made at the rink.

"The committee feels like we should have representation on this committee," he said. "These decisions will affect energy use for 20 years and the decisions involve energy use and not just capital decisions. This is a good opportunity to make good decisions."

He said the energy committee wanted the town to save energy and money.

Selectboard member John Allen said it was going to be a challenging committee to serve on, saying there were a lot of options and financial considerations to think about.

"You're going to have 10 people with 10 different solutions," he said. "I just hope we can come up with a solution that doesn't cost half-a-million dollars. We want people who are passionate and want to get involved. This is a touchy subject right now."

The Selectboard has been trying to figure out what to do about the skating rink since March, when Town Meeting Representatives approved spending up to $362,000 on the new equipment.

That estimate came only days before the March meeting and some Selectboard members at Representative Town Meeting said they were uncomfortable moving ahead with such an expensive project without doing more research.

After Town Meeting refrigeration experts said the job would actually cost more than $470,000.

The board agreed to fix the existing equipment for about $34,000 to ensure the ice was ready for the season on Oct. 26.

There are a number of options the board can consider with different technologies and machinery if a decision is made to replace the equipment.

If a more expensive option is chosen the board will have to go back to the Town Meeting Representatives to ask for the additional funds.

When the board agreed to invest the money this year Recreation & Parks Director Carol Lolatte said the investment would be a "Band Aid" fix and she would not be able to ensure the equipment would last the entire season.

The board has been awarded a $100,000 Vermont Community Foundation grant to help pay for the eventual replacement of the equipment at the Nelson Withington Skating Facility.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.