Once facility is officially commissioned, city will be responsible for paying for service work.

    It's possible, Parks & Recreation Director and Crookston Sports Center Manager Scott Riopelle told the Park Board on Tuesday, that the three-year old CSC could be officially "commissioned" by the time the board meets in March.

    While the fact that the commissioning contractor, McFarland Sheet Metal of Grand Forks, could be poised to officially document that the CSC's various mechanical and control systems and instruments are functioning as they should – after three years of struggles – is considered a positive development in what has been an ongoing saga, some board members remain a little leery.

    Why? Well, for one, Riopelle said, the CSC's systems have been working as they should for only a couple weeks or so, since engineers, architects and other contractors who helped design and build the CSC converged on the facility – a meeting Riopelle and Ron Jasmer, project manager from Widseth Smith Nolting & Associates had been trying to arrange for months – and adjusted various controls and settings. For another, Jasmer and Riopelle told the board at its most recent meeting that there was a good chance the commissioning agent wouldn't officially sign off on the CSC until the 2013-14 hockey and skating season commenced next October, because the contractors who designed and built the CSC's various systems said all three sheets of ice would need to be fully operational in order to get an accurate commissioning evaluation. However, at the recent meeting of the the various contractors and engineers at the CSC, Riopelle said Tuesday, he was told that the CSC could still be fully commissioned even if all three sheets of ice aren't in operation. The multi-purpose Gold Arena, he added, is having its ice melted this week and the artificial turf will be laid down.

    "That's a major red flag for me," Park Board Chair Larry Brekken said.

    Others echoed Brekken's concerns, mostly because the initial one-year warranty on the CSC's systems has remained in effect two additional years, meaning the city has paid next to nothing as work has been done to try to remedy the issues. Once the commissioning agent signs off that the CSC is operating as it should, however, the city will be on the hook to pay for any service needed from that point on. Although all three rinks were full operational during the big meeting a couple weeks ago, Riopelle said he'll be working with McFarland Sheet Metal extensively in the coming days and weeks as the commissioning process progresses, work that will continue after the Gold Arena has been melted.

    "For three years they said they needed all three to do this properly, now all of a sudden they don't need all three," Brekken said. "I don't want the city to get stuck with the bill because something didn't get taken care of properly after it's commissioned. ....Next winter, when it's not working again, who's going to get stuck with the bill?"

    The primary, ongoing issue has been that the CSC's systems are supposed to operate successfully on an "auto" setting that automatically adjusts various settings as various conditions change. When there have been problems throughout the three years, Riopelle has had to switch the system to manual, but getting everything back to the "auto" setting requires more than simply flipping a switch. At various points since the facility opened, engineers and contractors have checked the system, tweaked a thing or two, and switched it back to "auto," only to have something else go awry afterward, forcing Riopelle to switch everything back to the manual setting.

    Riopelle said Tuesday he hopes those days are in the rear-view mirror. The CSC's systems have been running nicely on automatic since the big meeting, and he said the sheets of ice froze nicely this past weekend, when the CSC was home to both the Bantam A and PeeWee A district tournaments.

    "We need to get some time under our belts, a little history, and let it operate this way for a while," Riopelle said. "It's much colder outside than it was when everyone was here, for example, so we need to make sure that the temperatures in the system adjust accordingly. It's adjusting on auto as it's supposed to now."

    Since there are various contractors that have yet to be paid the full amount due to them because the CSC has yet to achieve fully commissioned status, and since they aren't getting paid as they've continue to struggle with the CSC's systems, City Administrator Tony Chladek called it a "Herculean effort" to get all of the stakeholders to come to Crookston two weeks ago.

    "Well, they know it hasn't been working and that they need to fix it," Brekken responded.