A week before the third anniversary of Crookston Sports Center's opening, the general contractor, Donlar Construction, has not yet paid the sub-contractor in charge of the CSC's controls and systems that regulate and integrate the ice and other conditions in the three-rink facility.
That was the word at Tuesday's Park Board meeting from Ron Jasmer of Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates. Jasmer, who served as project manager, said the reason Twin Cities-based Minnesota Control Company has not yet been paid is because the "conditioning agent" that is supposed to "sign-off" on the building's systems being fully integrated and functioning properly has yet to give the CSC's systems his official blessing.
Jasmer's attendance came in the wake of the Park Board, at its most recent meeting, expressing frustration over the fact that Jasmer and Parks & Recreation Director Scott Riopelle, also the CSC manager, haven't been able to get the necessary contractors on the same page when it comes to the need to get the CSC's mechanical systems and controls to a fully functioning level. Tuesday, Jasmer stressed that it hasn't been due to a lack of effort on his part or Riopelle's. He also said that the concerns and frustrations voiced by board members, city officials, users of the facility and the public are entirely justified, and that he and Riopelle are trying to remain optimistic that things at the CSC will take a turn for the better over the next few weeks.
It's important that major progress is made over the next couple of weeks or so, Riopelle added, because in order to properly integrate the CSC's systems and see that they're functioning as they should, all three sheets of ice need to be in place. By mid-February, the Gold Arena ice is typically melted. If the controls aren't as they should be before the turf is put down in the Gold Arena once the ice is melted, Riopelle said the CSC would go into its fourth hockey and skating season next October with continued unresolved system issues.
Jasmer called the construction of the CSC the "ultimate dream project" in which "everything clicked" and "went just great." Donlar was paid in full upon the city officially taking control of the facility. The Minnesota Department of Labor did raise some concerns about wages, overtime and even child labor during and after the facility's construction, Jasmer said, which could have contributed to some contractors "being defensive" and "protective" in the the three years since the CSC opened because they were facing potentially “thousand and thousands of dollars in fines.”
The first few months after it opened were marked by some not entirely unexpected glitches with the CSC's systems, Jasmer said, "but we were fairly comfortable" that it was going to be commissioned. Under the one-year warranty, a "punch list" of items that needed fixing was compiled in January 2011, and a change order was made that involved some "very critical" valves being replaced because they weren't operating properly. With the valves fixed, things seemed to be on track for the start of the 2011-12 hockey and skating season, Jasmer said, but systems-related issues have long since persisted and, as a result, the conditioning agent has not signed off.
Page 2 of 2 - "The whole system has never been, front to back, operating completely," he said, adding that if there's a "silver lining" to the situation it's that any work done on the building's systems have been under the initial warranty.
Riopelle's primary remedy to keep the systems functioning as well as possible has been to run them manually instead of on "auto" as they were designed. Saying there are "always two sides to every story," Jasmer mentioned that Minnesota Control Company has said that when they make a visit, tweak the system and switch it to auto, Riopelle subsequently switches it back to manual, necessitating another visit by MCC to switch it back to auto.
Riopelle said that's because he's had to in order to avoid a major breakdown in the building's systems. An "emergency situation" happened as recently as last week, he recalled, when he was working with MCC. "I told them what pumps were in what specific mode, and he wanted to know which ones could be on automatic and he put them on automatic," Riopelle explained. "Within two minutes the compressors kicked off because of high pressure and the red lights were on. I had to go back on manual."
"It's not just temp control, it's a mechanical-wide issue," Jasmer said. "The mechanical contractor has to be involved, too. It's kind of like herding chickens."
Arenas suffer from mechanical issues from time to time, of varying levels, he added, "But this one is over the top, I admit, and should not be happening," Jasmer said. "But we're very close to getting everyone back to take care of this." He added that the commissioning agent is "100 percent behind us."
Jasmer said the CSC's systems are the most sophisticated he's seen in the 10 arena projects he's been involved in. He also noted that Riopelle is "far and away the most technically savvy and understanding operator" he's worked with.
Board Chair Larry Brekken and other board members appreciated the detailed update, but Brekken said it doesn't alter the unfortunate reality that such a major facility, three years after opening, continues to malfunction. "From an outsider's point of view, people don't understand what has gotten us to this place," Brekken said. "I still don't think I do, either."