Parks and Rec staff member, Ivan Gil, sits at the front desk of the Community Center. The front desk area moved after the aquatic side of the facility lost power. (Photo courtesy of Parks and Rec)

Petersburg’s Aquatic Center will likely be closed for weeks–maybe even a few months–following a fire with the boiler’s electrical system. While the boiler failure is being investigated and fixed, the rest of the Community Center will remain open. KFSK’s Angela Denning reports:

When the fire alarms starting going off Friday night, Parks and Rec Facility Supervisor, Stephanie Payne was at home. It was 8:30 p.m. near the facility’s closing time, and one of her staff called her with the news. Payne says there were only a few patrons left in the building to evacuate and emergency responders were already notified.

“The fire department is already locked into our panel so they already got the signal and they were already on their way,” Payne said.

The sprinkler system started up and the fire was  put out.

Payne soon learned that the fire was in the electrical system of the pool boiler. There was a catastrophic failure of the breakers, which destroyed the power supply and protection equipment. The incident also caused a brownout throughout the community.

The power remains out to Aquatic side of the building. Payne says they hope to get that part fixed before long but the pool itself will remain closed for weeks.

“Yes, it will be weeks,” said Payne.

The pool is also used by the local elementary school. The school principal sent a message to parents saying the pool closure could last two months.

Since Friday night, Payne and other staff have been frantically trying to deal with the situation. The other side of the building with the weight room, racquetball court, and activity room will stay open. Payne says they’re moving the front desk area down the hall to what some people might remember as the old front desk are and patrons will be able to check in there.

“That runs off of a different system that was connected to the school so it has its own H-vac. It has its own alarm panels, everything is just fine on that end of the facility,” said Payne.

At this point, Payne says they do not know why the breaker failure occurred. They don’t know the full extent of the problem nor how much it might cost to fix. She says they’re working with the borough’s insurance company and need an adjustor to visit the site.

“We are going through the steps to get somebody in who can really dig into the situation and see exactly what happened,” said Payne. “It’s really hard to say until we can get somebody in here that can trace backwards to see where things went down.”

Meanwhile, several local entities have responded to the site. Municipal Power and Light looked into the transformer and a local electrician and a local computer technician also came to the facility.

The pool closure follows a series of closures earlier this year after leaking and heating problems were identified. Then later this spring, there was a facility closure for COVID lasting months. Payne says she’s communicating with her staff to make sure they feel secure about their jobs.

“It’s not been easy, it’s not been easy for my staff, they are full of questions,” she said.

The pool also closed in 2015 for a fire in the wiring for the boiler although it’s unrelated to this incident. Although the recent closures were boiler related, the borough is not sure if this latest problem is connected to those earlier this year.

Borough Assembly Member, Chelsea Tremblay said the electrical fire is unfortunate.

“This is devastating,” said Tremblay. “It is the last thing that anybody wanted to have happen this year.”

Tremblay was speaking on a KFSK radio show, Borough Business. She says it should be a borough priority to fix.

“It’s so important to get this back up and running,” Tremblay said. I hate how many people are being impacted. I hate how excited everyone was to have the pool back and now to have it closed again is just a real bummer and however we can help we will.”

Payne says the Rec Center is planning to work with patrons to retrieve their items out of the locker rooms for the time being.

Besides rec center patrons, the high school swim team and local youth swim club will also be affected by the closure.

Absentee voting is being held in the activity room in the Rec Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. To support the voting, the room will be closed to Rec Center patrons from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.