Petersburg’s borough assembly Monday approved spending money for heating controls at the community gym but voted against spending to replace a boiler exhaust stack at the hospital. Assembly members were concerned about setting a precedent for project funding at the medical center.
The price tag for new heating and ventilation controls at the community gym is just over 137,000 dollars. The Parks and Recreation department had budgeted for more than half of that to do the work in the upcoming year and says it has little control over the temperature in the building.
Karen Malcom teaches classes in the old racquetball court and urged the assembly to approve the spending. “So we are either freezing or roasting and I’m fortunate because my particular class, I do strength training and yoga, whereas there’s two other teachers that do high intensity aerobics and they are really miserable in there. So if this is anyway possible I would really appreciate your support in that.”
Assembly members questioned whether the money would fix the 25-year old system. Parks and Recreation director Donnie Hayes said it would. “So number one that’s gonna help us to save money because it’s not going to have to pump as much heat into the building to keep it at a level temperature. And then number two that’ll allow us to be able to say we can actually keep the racquetball court at 65 degrees or the gymnasium at 70 degrees, whereas right now we don’t have that ability at all.”
Meanwhile, school superintendent Rob Thomason wrote a letter supporting the use of $50,000 dollars that had been budgeted in the upcoming year for concrete work in the district. Thomason wrote that money should be should instead go toward the community gym controls and would help the district save heating fuel costs in the long run. The gym building is heated by school district boilers in the adjacent building.
The assembly voted 5-0 to approve the spending for the heating controls. The replacement will be done by one of the companies working on the elementary school project this summer.
Another spending decision was for 21-thousand 900 dollars for the medical center to replace a boiler exhaust stack that is leaking. The hospital board was hoping the borough would fund that work to happen this summer with the completion of the roof replacement project.
John Havrilek wondered about setting a precedent for projects at the hospital. “You know in 50 years I’ve checked with some seniors in town, we haven’t had to pay any building repairs, building upkeep or renovations. So are we going to start doing that now and if we are where are we going to get the money? Are we changing the relationship with the hospital? Because it seems like we are.”
Others on the assembly wanted to support the hospital but were also unclear about the borough’s responsibility for funding upkeep. Medical Center CEO Liz Woodyard noted the borough owns the hospital building and has not been paying for repairs. “So up to this point, the hospital has had to repair and maintain and replace everything. And that’s why there’s many things that are not maintained or repaired. They haven’t had the money for years and years and years and years.”
Woodyard said she’d like to see the borough agree to an annual payment to the medical center for upkeep and though the hospital couldn’t afford the work that was needed. “So of the hospital has to continue to pay all the building requirements, we’re not going to be able to make it on operations. And that’s because you only have one pot of money. And if we pay for something on one end we have to take it out of somewhere else.”
The vote was 4-1 against the hospital project funding with only Jeigh Stanton Gregor voting to support it. Mayor Mark Jensen and assemblyman Bob Lynn were not at the meeting.