SNOW HILL– In a split vote this week, county officials agreed to get rid of the synthetic ice rink purchased in 2019.
The Worcester County Commissioners voted 4-3 to cease ice rink operations and explore how best to dispose of it. While those in support of getting rid of it cited the expense and underutilization, others argued it was an amenity for citizens.
“To get rid of this is a disservice to the people,” Commissioner Joe Mitrecic said.
County staff were asked to provide an update on the ice rink, which was purchased for nearly $70,000 at the urging of Tom Perlozzo in 2019, this week. The county also spent close to $10,000 on a trailer to hold the rink and skate racks as well as new felt for the rink.
Director of Recreation and Parks Kelly Rados said the county typically worked with a civic organization or community event to set up the rink, and in those cases a 90/10 revenue split was used to help offset the county’s setup costs. It takes about eight staff members four hours to lay down the rink and another three hours to pick it up.
In her report to the commissioners, Rados said in late November, the rink was laid down at Sturgis Park for the Town of Snow Hill. The town had 150 skaters during the holiday season, charging $5 a skater for a total of $750. Per the split, the county received $75 of that. A sponsorship of $1,000 enabled the county to offer free skating Dec. 27-30. That attracted 243 skaters.
“While the ice rink does not pay for itself, it does allow us to bring in some revenue,” Rados said.
Commissioner Jim Bunting made a motion to cease use of the rink and to explore options to sell or donate it.
Mitrecic said that like many recreation facilities, the rink wasn’t meant to make money. Commissioner Ted Elder agreed that recreation and parks was a not a business.
“It’s not there to make money,” he said.
Commissioner Diana Purnell pointed out that before the county had the synthetic rink, there had been just one ice rink where kids could skate in the area.
“This is one of those services that show appreciation to the county,” she said. “I do not want to get rid of it.”
Bunting said that when staff had suggested the county purchase the rink in 2019, it had been presented as a money-making venture.
“You were going to sell ads on fencing,” he said.
Purnell said the rink operations had been affected by the pandemic, as everything had.
When Commissioner Caryn Abbott asked Rados for her thoughts, Rados said events like the holiday one were good for the community. She added, however, that the county needed to find more locations to offer events like that where the rink could be set up for prolonged periods.
“When we set it up and break it down it does take eight staff,” she said.
Commissioner Eric Fiori said he agreed the rink was a public service but thought resources could be better used elsewhere to benefit more citizens.
Commissioner Chip Bertino said he’d taken his grandchildren to the rink last month and they’d enjoyed skating. He also said he’d gone back and reviewed the 2019 presentation from staff when they proposed purchasing the rink.
“This was promoted as a moneymaker for the county,” he said, adding that it had also cost more than the $50,000 staff initially said it would cost.
Bertino added that the rink, which is 52 feet by 32 feet, had only been able to accommodate 13 skaters at a time when he’d seen it being used.
“It was a nice experience but this hasn’t lived up to the expectations that were presented to the commissioners,” he said.
The commissioners voted 4-3, with Mitrecic, Elder and Purnell opposed, to move stop using the rink and to explore ways to sell or donate it.