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Ice making company gets frosty reception from Wellington North council

by Olivia Rutt

KENILWORTH - Wellington North councillors had a heated exchange with company officials over the operation of the refrigeration unit at the Mount Forest and District Sports Complex.

On Dec. 18, engineer Andrew Forster and service manager Mark White, of Canadian Ice Making Company (CIMCO), presented a report outlining the analysis done on the system and potential improvements.

Mark MacKenzie, facility manager at the arena, brought forward the ongoing issue again in October, saying the system has trouble keeping ice during particularly warm fall days. He added this is a regular frustration during the start of the hockey/skating season.

At the time, MacKenzie noted the original proposal from CIMCO stated the system is able to make and hold ice all year long. Council  then agreed to bring CIMCO representatives in for a discussion and spend $6,750 on an independent refrigeration expert to offer a third party opinion

At the Dec. 18 meeting, Forster told council CIMCO spent time “going over the system” and generated a report to council that outlines two problems: one with the glycol-to-water plate heat exchanger and the other with reduced cooling tower performance.

Forster recommended the heat exchanger to be disassembled and cleaned and the number of plates in the unit be expanded, at a cost of $25,000 plus HST.

To enhance the cooling tower, Forster recommended increasing the motor from 7.5 horse power to 10 at a cost of $35,000 plus HST. Ongoing water treatment was also recommended.

Councillor Steve McCabe asked if Forster agreed this system currently in place should be able to make ice every day of the year.

Forster said he analyzed other arenas with the same system and the same cooling tower.  

“All things being equal, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t work all year, aside from the findings of my report,” he said.

Councillor Dan Yake asked if the system is deteriorating from normal use or from maintenance issues.

“The main deterioration is in the heat exchanger and that would relate to ongoing use and operations. Where the water treatment aspect comes in is to safeguard that,” said Forster.

White told council to imagine the plate like a sieve and that untreated water over time clogs the sieve.  

“What I would present, and this is not skirting any previous issues, is to move forward and adapt Andrew’s recommendations, because then what you’re doing is starting brand new again ... then you have a fresh start to analyze where you’re at,” said White.

He added the system is about 11 years old.

“We’ve lost some efficiency just to the age. ... we’re not talking brand new,” said White.

“If we were talking brand new, or within the first couple of years this conversation would be totally different.”

Mayor Andy Lennox voiced his concerns about moving forward with the recommendations.

“When I think of purchasing a piece of equipment like this, I think of not just purchasing the physical equipment but we’re purchasing expertise, purchasing experience; we’re purchasing a level of service that we can expect to be followed through,” he said.

“This plant has never fulfilled what it was built to do.

“I am very hesitant to endorse spending more money on your recommendations without some guarantee that we are going to get the results we need.”

White said he was not part of the original conversation when the unit was built.

“I don’t have that information but from my years of experience in this industry...  we can’t move forward with the plates plugged up,” he said.

“When we get the plates unplugged and get this back to the original specifications on the pressures and the flows, then we can look at this conversation.”

“I’ll ask you again, what is your accountability in this?” asked Lennox.  

“If we go spend $50,000 to $75,000, what skin have you got in the game here … is it going to do what it was built to do when we purchased it?”  

White said he could not speak to the original specifications, but added, “I would say most likely yes … I do know right now it’s not running the way that it should run.”

Lennox then bluntly asked why Wellington North should do business with CIMCO.

“You’ve come to Andrew, you’ve asked for his recommendations on what he’s found, he’s come back from giving you an honest statement that the plates are plugged and it needs maintenance and that we are here to support that and get it done,” said White.

When asked about water testing, Forster said CIMCO relies on consultants to provide the specifications and water treatment is done by customers.

MacKenzie, who was also at the Dec. 19 meeting, said that the arena’s treated water is “bang on.”

The township started treating water for the ice making system about five years ago, he said.

“I’m reading (in the report) it’s under-sized to begin with,” said MacKenzie.  

Forster said the original unit is “adequate,” adding his recommendations would be “smaller-scale improvements” while the system is down for maintenance.

MacKenzie replied, “It wasn’t adequate, because for 10 years ... every start up we were shut down for days. One time it was almost a week to clean the plates off and reassemble it to get us going again.  

“It’s not our treated water that is causing it to scale, it’s the untreated water we have to use to cool down the system,” he said.

“To get this right, it seems we (need to) replace equipment that wasn’t adequate in the first place.”  

Lennox thanked the CIMCO representatives for their report, adding, “We are not trying to throw Andrew or any other staff member under the bus, but we believe the company, CIMCO, has an accountability and we are asking you to step up to that accountability and I’m not hearing that.”

Councillor Lisa Hern said from her perspective Wellington North was “sold a product by a sales person that has a blatant defect. … I don’t think our taxpayers should be paying any of this money right now.”

No action was taken by council, but a report from staff on the issue is expected in the new year.

December 29, 2017


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