Moffat County looks at new ice arena cooling system

Commissioners travel to Wyoming in hopes of purchasing used unit

At a glance

• Moffat County Commissioners Tom Gray and Tom Mathers travel to Pinedale, Wyo., to discuss oil and gas industry and new cooling system for ice arena.

• Moffat County Ice Arena cooling system has required maintenance for several years.

• Current system not properly cooling ice due to warped chiller barrel.

• Commission believes installing a different system would be less expensive than repairing old system.

• Sublette County willing to sell system to Moffat County for up to $30,000, but no negotiations have taken place.

Faced with an aging and faulty cooling system at the Moffat County Ice Arena, the Moffat County Commission took action in hopes of finding a solution to the problem.

Commissioners Tom Gray and Tom Mathers traveled Wednesday to Pinedale, Wyo., to investigate an ice cooling system currently being used at the Sublette County Ice Arena.

Mathers said Sublette County Ice Arena staff is looking to keep its ice arena open all year, requiring the county to replace the current system with a larger cooling unit and sell the old system.

After spending the day looking at the system with a Sublette County Commissioner, Mathers said it could be integrated into Moffat County’s arena.

Mathers said the two counties did not agree on a purchase price for the unit, but said it might cost between $20,000 and $30,000.

The county would have to wait until Sublette County’s bid process is complete on its new cooling system before taking possession.

Mathers said installation of the system, if purchased, would probably be pushed back to early 2011, forcing the county to find ways to keep the old system operating through the first part of the season.

A new cooling system would help make the arena viable in the future, Mathers said.

“We are just having a heck of a time keeping it running,” Mathers said. “The ice is really, really bad out there half the time. It gets soft on us because we can’t keep it cold enough.”

The current cooling system at the ice arena has required extensive maintenance in recent years, Mathers said.

Maintenance crews originally said a faulty gasket was the problem, but three weeks after repairing the gasket, the cooling system broke down again, Mathers said.

Crews later discovered the problem was a large warp in the chiller barrel inside the system causing it to cool the ice improperly.

Mathers said fixing the warped chiller barrel would have been expensive because the cooling system is old and few companies make replacement parts for it.

The system was originally installed at the ice arena in 1999, Moffat County Budget Analyst Tinneal Gerber said.

Mathers said the county purchased the cooling system used and it was not designed to properly keep the ice frozen in the way needed at the arena.

“The system was more or less designed to keep your frozen foods cold in City Market,” Mathers said.

Since 2008, the county has spent $50,616.96 on maintenance at the ice arena, including the cooling system, Gerber said.

Mathers said there are other problems with the county’s cooling system than just the chiller barrel.

“We don’t want to buy (a new system) just for the chiller barrel because we have more problems than that,” he said. “You’ve got compressors that are old and starting to go bad. The system is just worn out.”

Commissioners discuss oil and gas industry

During their trip to Pinedale, Gray and Mathers also discussed the oil and gas industry with a Sublette County Commissioner.

Mathers said the natural gas industry in Sublette County is well-established, but the commissioners visit the state capitol often to fight rules and regulations on the industry.

There is a large natural gas field in Sublette County called Jonah Field, Mathers said.

Gray said Sublette County doesn’t add any regulations to the oil and gas industry, but relies on the state’s regulations, which are less stringent than Colorado’s.

“These guys up here are just like we are in Moffat County — they’re pro-development,” he said. “Everything has really done well.”

Overall, the trip was educational, Gray said.

“You always broaden your horizons when you get to see another county that is real similar to your own,” he said.

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