Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Mold discovered growing on the roof of the BOR in Barre has forced the facility to delay its opening until it can be cleaned up.
BARRE — The BOR ice arena will be off limits for nearly a month due to a mold problem that city councilors were told this week will cost roughly $150,000 to fix.
Confronted with a last-minute addition to their agenda that was spurred by a union request, councilors agreed to accept the lone bid the city received in August to address an issue officials had hoped to defer until next year.
Though they haven’t identified where the money for the latest in a series of sizable unbudgeted expenses will come from, councilors unanimously agreed to a plan Facilities Director Jeff Bergeron said should allow the BOR to reopen by Nov. 5.
They didn’t have much of a choice, according to Mayor Thomas Lauzon, who said Tuesday night that saying no simply wasn’t an option.
As it is Bergeron said the BOR will bleed an estimated $23,000 in revenue while it is out of service — much of it from the Barre Youth Sports Association. The organization is a $70,000-a-year customer and will have to shop elsewhere for ice time until the mold issue is resolved.
The Barre Figure Skating Club is in the same boat after tests done Tuesday afternoon at the request of a local labor union confirmed an air quality problem that Bergeron said could be traced to mold found in the ceiling of the indoor ice arena.
Though discoloration on the beams supporting the BOR’s arched roof has been the subject of conjecture for several years, Bergeron said mold was considered about as likely as accumulated dust or peeling paint.
It turned out to be a combination of all three, according to Bergeron, who told councilors a city employee first expressed concern about mold in late July, prompting him to conduct a visual inspection with the help of Deputy Fire Chief Joe Aldsworth and Capt. Matt Cetin. That revealed a lot of dust, some peeling paint and what appeared to be mold.
Looking for confirmation and a price to deal with the problem, Bergeron contacted four companies to assess the situation. Only LimeLite Restoration submitted a remediation proposal.
The quote from the Colchester company was for just over $148,000 to get rid of the mold and to paint and seal the interior of the arena.
At the time, the mold was not airborne, according to Bergeron, who said it is now.
Bergeron said the recent start of the seasonal ice-making process has led to condensation in the arena, which lacks a sufficient dehumidification system — creating air quality problems that prompted the union to request the environmental assessment.
According to Bergeron, the assessment by Crothers Environmental Group confirmed the presence of airborne mold, prompting him to stop making ice and close the BOR.
Based on his conversations with consultants, Bergeron said he didn’t believe the health risk was serious, but he conceded it shouldn’t be ignored — if only to protect the city from a lawsuit.
“I don’t think we should take a chance of someone going in there coming out and saying they’ve developed an illness,” he said. “Good luck fighting that battle.”
Armed with the consultant’s preliminary assessment, Bergeron met with City Manager Steve Mackenzie and Lauzon on Tuesday afternoon and recommended the council accept the LimeLite bid at its meeting Tuesday night.
Assuming the work is done on time — and Lauzon said he’d be willing to pay a premium to have it finished even a few days early — it would not affect Spaulding High School’s hockey programs.
Lauzon said the projected loss of revenue was “unfortunate, but not overriding” and that figuring out how to pay for the work was necessary.
“There’s a hazard,” he said. “We’re not going to expose children to it (and) we’re not going to expose the general public to it. So, while this is a difficult financial decision, it is an easy decision.”
Councilor Paul Poirier agreed. “We need to deal with this,” Poirier said.
Poirier said he trusted Mackenzie to negotiate with LimeLite and explore the potential for expediting the work even if it comes at an added cost. Though Mackenzie suggested a 10 percent contingency — roughly $14,000 — Poirier said he didn’t want to tie the manager’s hands on a bid that is nearly 2 months old and might need to be tweaked to get the work done sooner.
“I want this project to move forward,” he said.
Councilors unanimously authorized Mackenzie to finalize an agreement with LimeLite and vowed to keep users of the BOR — several of whom attended Tuesday’s meeting — apprised of progress.
Bergeron said he expected to have written test results from Crothers Environmental by Thursday and that LimeLite had said it could begin mobilizing at the BOR at that time.
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