Petersburg officials are hoping for temporary repairs to the electrical system at Petersburg’s swimming pool. That could restore heat and electricity to that part of the community center but won’t allow the borough to re-open the pool to customers.
The aquatic center has been without electricity since the main electrical breaker box and control panel to the pool boilers overheated and were destroyed last month.
Borough manager Steve Giesbrecht Monday said the borough has an agreement with an electrical contractor for temporary repairs.
“If everything goes as planned, he should have parts available for us and maybe here this week or next to get us a temporary power solution,” Giesbrecht said. “That’s the good news. The bad news is it doesn’t mean opening the pool, it just means getting some lights and heat in the building.”
The borough has also ordered a portable heater as a short-term fix if parts are not readily available for the other temporary work. The hope is to reduce condensation and the possibility for mold or other damage. The temporary repairs and the restoration of some electricity are also needed before the borough can determine if the boilers themselves and other systems suffered any damage in the fire. Giesbrecht thinks the short-term fix could cost around 200,000 dollars.
However, the manager expects permanent repairs could take much longer. An electrical engineer who inspected the damage told Giesbrecht some time frames but he does not know how reliable those are.
“He said 2-3 months on the temporary and 9 months to a year on the permanent fix,” Giesbrecht said. “Now I think he’s a little more optimistic now. But a lot of that time frame on both of those estimates have to do with the availability of the parts and equipment we need. Some of this stuff, with COVID, you know the whole supply chain has just been massively messed up.”
The price tag for the long-term repairs could be 700-thousand dollars, based on what Giesbrecht is calling a very rough estimate provided by the engineer. But that does not include cost of repairs or replacement for the boilers or other systems if they’ve been damaged.
Meanwhile, days are getting shorter and temperatures are dropping. The pool was closed last winter after a cold snap damaged systems and a leak was discovered. Staff have drained the pool’s pipes this fall but are not draining the pool itself. Giesbrecht said he’s inquired with others in the business about whether that’s a good idea, but has been told not to.
“Their concern about draining the pool is that weight, with our soil conditions, is actually what keeps that pool kind of seated where it’s supposed to be,” he explained. “And their concern is if we drain the pool and then we have freezing conditions it may in fact upset the structural stability of the pool. They told us leave the water in it. That’s what we’re doing and we’ll keep working on it.”
The borough is expecting the repairs to be covered by insurance. Petersburg’s primary carrier is Alaska Public Entity Insurance. But larger claims on this policy are handled by nationwide company Liberty Mutual. That company has expressed interest in sending someone to Petersburg to investigate before agreeing to cover costs. Nevertheless the borough is moving forward with trying to find parts and pursuing a short-term fix.
Parks and Recreation staff have been moved to other parts of the community center. Giesbrecht said the closure has been hard on staff and they are anxious to get it fixed and reopened for the public.