Premature boiler failure extends pool closure to May 25

Meeker Recreation Center will be closed through at least May 25 for a complete replacement of the pool’s heating system. One of two pool boilers failed a few months ago, and the board chose to go with a new system instead of making repairs. That work will happen in May.

MEEKER | The stay at home order officially lifts next week, April 27, but don’t expect to be jumping back into the pool until after Memorial Day. Somewhat surprisingly, this particular news is not COVID-related.

In February, we reported on the failure of one of Meeker Recreation Center’s (MRC’s) pool boilers. There are two system boilers, and they have an expected life span of 20 years apiece.

MRC is not seeing anywhere near this, as the failed boiler is only six years old. This leaves just one pool boiler (which replaced another failed boiler in 2018) to maintain a constant temperature of the system’s 150,000+ gallons of water.

Lochinvar Copper Fin boilers are used and used well in other places, with many facilities reporting a full 20 years of useful life, according to Maintenance Manager Rodney Gerloff.

So what’s happening here? According to Gerloff, it’s the pool water. “It’s corrosive water. I mean, there’s no other way to describe it. We put muriatic acid in there, chlorine, plus our hard water we’re softening now, so we’re adding some salt to that.”

“That type of system, it’s not conducive to having that pool water run through it,” Executive Director Sean VonRoenn added.

Director Dan Chinn then asked, “other places where they were installed, what’s different about them? Why are they getting 20 years and we’re not?”

Gerloff said it was a good question, and that they had done all of the corrective measures their contractors had suggested, but cotinued to see the degradation.

VonRoenn added that he has not seen this type of pool boiler system in other rec centers he’s visited.

The HT reached out to Lochinvar for comment, but did not receive a response. The manual for this particular boiler lists the following reasons for corrosion of the heat exchange system within Copper Fin boilers:

Chemical mismanagement (parameters for water quality are hardness between 5 and 15 grains per gallon, a pH between 6.5 and 8.1, total dissolved solids of less than 350 ppm, chloride concentration less than 150 ppm, and chlorine less than 150 ppm)

Sediment in the system

Venting system issues – this known issue was described by Gerloff during the meeting as “condensate in the flue pipe”

The manual also states not to directly heat swimming pool or spa water.

In December, the board put aside $60,000 for a replacement while waiting for engineering reports to come back.

In January, three options were reviewed:

Replacing the failed boiler with a like-for-like boiler for $42,000. Board President Kent Walter was for this idea, mostly due to the substantial price increase of other options, which would require a supplemental budget.

A hybrid option, which would replace the failed boiler and heat exchanger. This would begin a phase-in of replacement of the entire system and save the boiler that is still working. No final number was available due to the need for a formal bid, but estimated around $170K.

A full replacement option for approximately $250,000 (with final numbers contingent on a bid.) “I hope to get a very robust system that requires minimal maintenance compared to what we’ve been doing,” Gerloff stated.

Director Chinn said he thought full replacement was a “no brainer,”and board members briefly discussed postponing the roof replacement project to make up the budgetary difference. Director Travis Mobley wanted to “kick the can down the road” on the boiler issue, but board members ultimately decided to put out a formal bid for the second and third options.

In February, the board discussed the sole bid received from company Trane, which included two options for full replacement — a decoupled loop system and a condensing boiler option. No bids were received for a phased approach.

Gerloff recommended the decoupled loop option for a total of $257,019.57 and highlighted the ability to control the upgraded system from an app on his phone, saving him trips to the facility.

Director Walter was absent. The remaining trustees voted unanimously for the decoupled loop approach. Trustee Mobley asked where the money would come from, and the board discussed submitting a supplemental budget if the roof project can not be put off for a year.

“Agencies do supplemental budgets all the time,” VonRoenn said.

The board will make a final decision when the formal bid period on the roofing project ends May 29.

The board then discussed associated closures for the project and the possibility of overlapping those with ERBM’s regular annual closure before voting on a course of action. (At this time, COVID-19 shutdown measures had not yet been implemented.)

The board ultimately decided at following meetings the best course of action would be to remain closed through the replacement project and hopes to reopen after Memorial Day. According to VonRoenn, the project is on schedule as of April 21.

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Other January business:

Added an additional youth golf fee to the 2020 Reciprocal Services Agreement with Meeker Golf Course. Youth will be charged $3 per round or $50 per season.

Heard a request from Dale Smith with Meeker Lion’s Club asking for $10,00 in funding and “guidance” for new playground features at the Admin Building. The board indicated they’d be willing to help with preliminary research and installation, but tabled any financial assistance for upcoming 2021 budget talks. Come Sept. 1, Smith stated the Lions Club will fund the $25,000 project out of pocket regardless of the amount of donations received, but still want as much community involvement as possible. As of January, the club had collected $5,000. (For reference, the Paintbrush Park playground feature cost about $750,000, according to Manager Dondi Glasscock.)

Approved an agreement with the Meeker Classic for a $5,000 donation, 105 complimentary rec passes for handlers and out of town vendors, and use of the district’s 30×50 ft. tent and the staff to set it up. ERBM will receive Meeker Classic “Gold Sponsor” status..

Approved a requisition from Meeker Arts and Cultural Council (MACC) for $2,500 in funding for their fall play. Normally, MACC requests $7,500, but the funding request was decreased due to restructuring of the group’s Meekerpalooza event, netting ERBM a $5,000 cost savings.

Heard a request from Meeker Chamber Director Stephanie Kobald on behalf of the Main Street Program for a $5,000 contribution toward a downtown parklet. A parklet is a moveable sidewalk extension that can be “parked” outside of local businesses and used for events, exterior seating for local businesses, and extra space during community activities. The full project cost is $11,552 and the Main Street Program has a $7,000 grant to use for the project. Response was mixed from the board. “How does the board see this fitting with our mission?” asked Director Kent Walter. Director Strate stated, “I personally would like to see other partners,” and Director Baughman asked if other businesses had been approached. The board tabled the request and asked Kobald to go talk to some other entities and then come back.

Approved a $500 request for RBC Historical Society’s Bank Robbery Trail signage.

Designated a polling place and election official for the May 5 board of directors election. There are four candidates. The district is encouraging voting by absentee ballot (email cathy@erbmrec.com for an application), but will have a physical polling place set up at the recreation center on election day.

Highlighted specific portions of the 2019 revenue and expenditures statement, including an increase in program income ($7,000), decrease in program budget spending, decrease in health insurance premiums (although the line item continues to consistently be the most expensive at $25,000 to $30,000 per month, the district is netting about $100,000 in savings per year over the previous provider), and purchase of a GMC Sierra from Northwest Auto for $32,095.

Reviewed the Circle Park Pond Project.

Briefly discussed results of the Meeker Moving Forward survey, and a potential collaboration with the Town of Meeker for river corridor improvements.

Discussed a 30% discount on workers’ compensation insurance received for attaining the “Circle of Safety” award from provider Pinnacol.

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Other February  business:

The February meeting opened with a request from several Meeker baseball coaches for $2,000 to help fund a new local program known as Meeker Cowboy Youth Baseball. Ages served would be 10 to 13 year olds. According to the group, 37 people had signed up and practice was set to start April 1 (no word on what happened with this program after COVID-19.) The board split the vote, with Mobley and Strate concerned approval of the request would open them up to monetary requests from other entities like peewee wrestling and Mustang football. “I would rather see our money go towards those sources than a lot of other things,” Director Chinn countered. He and Baughman voted in favor of the request, Strate and Mobley voted against. Board president Kent Walter was absent for a tie breaker vote, so the board tabled the request for the March meeting.

Looked over cost recovery reports, no proposed changes to fee schedules or membership changes.

Approved a final guaranteed maximum price for construction of the Circle Park Pond Project with local contractor TDA Construction for $424,311.13. According to the final bid, a new timber framed pavilion accounts for the largest chunk of that cost at $55,000. Excavation of the pond will be $38,250, and trucking out those materials will cost $50,400. In response to a question about scheduling, TDA’s Travis Adams told the board, “throw the cards up and see which one lands first.” Chinn asked if TDA will have enough time to complete the project before the weather changes again (Adams thinks so) and Strate stated it was exciting to see a finish date on the project.

Approved CPA’s yearly audit with no changes.

Discussed the district’s ballfield lighting project and $5,000 budget shortfall. The project will cost $140,000 total, $95,000 in materials from Musco Lighting and $45,000 for the install from Ducey’s Electric.

Approved a revised agreement for river enhancements in conjunction with the Town of Meeker.

Discussed the purchase of a used Ford E 350 mini bus for $61,000, less a $16,000 trade-in credit, from Northwest Auto.

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The March meeting was open to the public via telephone call. The full board discussed and ultimately voted against funding Meeker Cowboy baseball’s per player subsidy with a total amount of $2,000, but Walter added, “we are supporting the program by supporting the field and the lighting and all of that.” Mobley, Strate, Walter and Baughman voted no, Chinn voted yes.

A note: the pool was temporarily closed Monday, March 2 through Wednesday, March 4. The HT asked if the closure was related to known pool boiler issues, but this was not the case. According to VonRoenn, the closure happened after pool users reported skin irritation due to possibly elevated chlorine levels. The failed pieces equipment were repaired and the pool continued to operate until the governor’s order to shut down due to coronavirus.

This issue was not discussed at the board meeting, as “all board members have been updated on the pool issues,” VonRoenn stated in an email. This information was not included in the print edition due to space constraints.

Other March business:

Approved a $1,500 request from Range Call. Roy Gilbert informed the board there will be no downtown activities this year, as the “county was a little upset about the grass getting torn up.” Vendors will be moved to the fairgrounds.

Discussed a response to COVID-19, including a potential emergency declaration. The board, following the county’s lead on the issue, decided against the declaration, but kept the option on the table for VonRoenn to use if necessary. The emergency declaration would open the district’s opportunities for funding, but the board members did not feel that was necessary. “There are people who are going to need this more,” Walter stated.

Passed a resolution to move to electronic meetings during the stay at home order

Discussed staffing during COVID-19, with a plan for exempt staff to continue work and several of the recreation and aquatics staff to be laid off. “With some of these frontline positions there is just not front line work to give them … because they (exempt and other staff) are working and getting paid, we didn’t think it was fair for them to not work and get paid. We’re going to lose some people that need to go get other jobs,” Recreation Manager Shelly Rogers stated.

Discussed program refund options.

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In an April meeting held via teleconference, the board briefly revisited an emergency disaster declaration and decided it remained an unnecessary step, and discussed a proposal to refund 50% of annual memberships due to the COVID-19 shutdown, as well as discount programs for the rest of the year by 25% – “We thought it prudent to put forward a potential additional proactive discount to our users based on the crisis that we’re all dealing with,” VonRoenn stated. Strate added, “Sean and I had this conversation today. There’s going to be some pretty strict stipulations. It may not be the same access that we had before … it’s not going to be the same experience.” Director Chinn double-checked the district’s full refund policy. Anyone who cannot or does not feel comfortable returning to the facility is eligible for a full refund of their membership. Budgetwise, this will amount to $55,000 in lost revenue, $40,000 for the 50% membership discount, and $15,000 for estimated program discounts for the remainder of 2020. This will likely be adjusted in the already-necessary supplemental budget due to the district’s two large CIP projects and ongoing Circle Park project. Spring refunds are currently being processed. Of note: dance participants will not be refunded for costumes. A performance of sorts will be held later this summer. This was approved unanimously by the board.

Other April business:

The board revised a portion of their fiscal policy, primarily to state that entities requesting funding must be located wholly or partially within the District’s jurisdiction, according to VonRoenn.

Discussed significant hit to investments related to COVID-19.

Planned a face-to-face discussion about a miscellaneous expense account.

VonRoenn stated Circle Park work is held up by an Army Corps permit that has not yet been approved. Construction is still slated for this summer, and crews are doing what prep work they can.

The roof replacement project is out for bid.

The district’s summer line-up will be digital only, and summer programming has been pushed to the beginning of June.

Staff will begin posting videos to erbmrec.com as their Facebook video promos wind down this week.