WESTLOCK – Swimmers hoping to get in a few laps this fall will have to remain patient as the Westlock Aquatic Centre is currently closed for its annual maintenance shutdown, with Thanksgiving weekend circled on the calendar for its reopening.
Town of Westlock community services director Gerry Murphy said the annual shutdown started Aug. 29 and in addition to the annual work they do to keep the pool in tip-top shape — some of the maintenance this year includes warranty work in one of the clarity pools — workers will also be focusing on remedying any damage caused after a waterline fitting in the basement “let go” July 10 and the crush of water damaged boilers, pumps, and motors. The pool eventually reopened July 22.
“There was some damage to the boilers with respect to the line break as it happened right overtop of them and they were going at the time, so you can imagine hot boilers pumping away and when you pour cold water over them, they don’t like that too much,” said Murphy at town’s council’s Sept. 12 meeting.
Murphy said in a Sept. 14 follow-up interview they’re currently working with their insurance company as “there are issues that we can directly point to that can be attributed to the line break and others that we think may be and pretty sure are but can’t say definitely.” No value has ever been given for the damage, but the town was forced to drain the pool due to health regulations following the line break.
“And that’s where the negotiation starts with the adjuster and the insurance company so that work is ongoing,” said Murphy. “Most of what we need to do we’re going to do anyways because we have to and we will try to reclaim as much from insurance as we can.”
Murphy said they’re also pricing out installing more alarms so if there is another break or other failures, the town will be alerted immediately. Previously, CAO Simone Wiley said the water alarms in the basement did their job and alerted staff in the early-morning hours of July 10 as it “could have been a lot worse” but admitted that checking the waterline valves “might be something we can build into a maintenance check.”
“Automation is our friend when it comes to that kind of stuff, especially when it comes to systems operating outside the norm. We’re pricing out a system that if there is anything out of the norm, it can actually shut the valve down and we can avoid any problems in the first place,” said Murphy. “We think there’s good value in that and I’m sure the insurance company would agree with us, now the negotiation is who’s going to fund it.”
Murphy said one of the questions he’s regularly asked is: “You had a mini-shutdown a month and a half ago, how come you didn’t do the work then and why do you need to do a shutdown?” The pool is one of the best-used town facilities, as Murphy’s report to council notes there were 1,195 drop-ins at the pool in August, while there were 991 membership uses.
“The answer to that is that a repair is one thing as we do have to shutdown for some repairs and for others we don’t. But our annual shutdown is really where the preventative and scheduled maintenance is done,” said Murphy. “Our boilers get torn down and rebuild by boiler mechanics. We have work scheduled with the plumbers and electricians and that work just can’t be done ad hoc — our vendors have their own schedules and aren’t sitting there waiting for us to break down. So that’s the rationale.”