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May 16, 2013

Council eyes commission to oversee ice rink

Concerns about facility's condition, how rental income is spent

HAVERHILL — A City Council committee has recommended that a commission be formed to oversee and advocate for improvements to Veteran’s Memorial Skating Rink.

The recommendation followed a meeting last night to discuss concerns from youth hockey and skating coaches about the poor conditions of the facility, which Haverhill has leased from the state for more than two decades.

Bill Mahoney, a representative of the Greater Haverhill Pentucket Youth Hockey program, outlined a long list of problems at the rink, including a leaky roof, outdated ice-making machine, malfunctioning heating and electrical systems and small dressing rooms. He also raised concerns about poor lighting in the parking lot, potholes in the driveway and the location of vending machines.

Council President Robert Scatamacchia said he recently toured the facility and that he was shocked at how much it has deteriorated in recent years.

“If we had a commission, that’s five or six people to go the mayor for funding, not just Vinnie (Ouellette),” Scatamacchia said.

Human Services Director Vincent Ouellette, who oversees the rink, said he has about $100,000 saved to repair the worst sections of the roof and buy a new ice-making machine. He said the city will also be making a number of aesthetic improvements while the facility is closed this summer. Plans are in the works to borrow $250,000 in three years for a new roof, Ouellette said.

Ouellette said the facility is on track to generate about $310,000 in rental income this year, but that a large chunk of that money is used to pay for maintenance workers and utilities.

There is one full-time maintenance worker and six part-timers, he said. The $210-per-hour ice time rate is set by the state, Ouellette said.

Several youth league representatives said the facility needs a full-time manager and someone to promote and sell ice time, especially since Ouellette oversees the city’s Citizens Center and many city programs.

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