The ice arena in Farmington will be resurfaced.
After months of hand-wringing, fraught discussion about short-term and future options, and flirtation with a private development proposal that hasn't materialized, a divided City Council has decided to move ahead with $1.16 million in repairs to Schmitz-Maki Arena.
Contractors will replace the concrete arena floor and leaky cooling system and install new dasher boards around the rink by mid-September, in hopes that everything will be done before hockey season.
"We need to have ice next fall," Council Member Christy Fogarty said.
The city, squeezed by a tight budget and lacking an arena maintenance fund, will issue bonds to pay for the repairs. Repayment of those bonds will fall to taxpayers. The owner of a $250,000 house, for example, would contribute $23 to $24 a year toward repayment of the bonds.
Council members said they would welcome financial or volunteer contributions from the Farmington Youth Hockey Association and the school district -- the main users of the arena -- but most agreed that the city is responsible for repairs to a city building.
"Ultimately, it is our responsibility," Fogarty said. "We're in this predicament today because 30 years ago nobody had the foresight to say we should be putting money aside."
Problems with the arena's cooling system -- a network of tubes that carry coolant through the floor -- have dogged the city for the past few years as the pipes began to leak. The city paid $30,000 to make emergency repairs last fall after leaks jeopardized the ability to make ice.
The arena, built in the late 1970s, needs a host of other fix-it projects.
The floor, cooling system and dasher boards were deemed the most urgent problems; the council opted not to replace the dehumidification system after city employees said the current system will work for now.
The decision came last week with a 3-2 vote. Council Member Julie May, who has repeatedly expressed frustration about the arena repair process and lack of discussion of financing, cast one of the votes against the repairs.
"I can't vote for something with incomplete information," May said. "I just can't do it."
Council Member Terry Donnelly, the other "no" vote, said the move was shortsighted.
"I would rather spend this million or million-two on a long-term solution," he said.
A community task force had recommended that the city not just fix Schmitz-Maki, but build a second sheet of ice there or a new arena with two sheets of ice on another site.
The council was cautiously receptive in February to a private developer's pitch for a sports and entertainment complex that would include a city-financed arena with two sheets of ice. But the city has not heard anything further from the developer.
Mayor Todd Larson said the city is researching the possibility of putting a second sheet of ice at Schmitz-Maki, noting that a soil study has been ordered to figure out what would have to be done to build there.
"If we do need another sheet [of ice] or when we're ready to build another sheet to meet our needs, I believe it can go there," he said, adding that the repairs to Schmitz-Maki guarantee one sheet of ice at a small fraction of the cost of a new arena.
"To have an ice arena for 30-35 years for $1 million or $1.2 million is really a bargain," Larson said.
Katie Humphrey • 952-882-9056