Iceland Requests Extension By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday August 16, 2005

City officials are considering Berkeley Iceland’s proposal to stay open while the embattled ice rink upgrades its antiquated cooling system. 

On Wednesday, Iceland proposed installing a temporary cooling system by Sept. 23 that would meet city safety requirements including the removal of 4,283 pounds of potentially toxic ammonia. 

Last month, Berkeley threatened to close the 65-year-old rink at Milvia and Ward streets on Aug. 22 if Iceland didn’t shut down its current cooling system and pump out the ammonia. 

Deputy Fire Marshall Wayne Inouye said city officials will decide this week on Iceland’s request to extend the deadline. 

“We’re trying to keep everyone happy,” he said. “I don’t see how they can pull this off in seven days.” 

Iceland Administrative Manager Monte Tiedemann said the rink was confident Berkeley would approve the extension.  

“I anticipate that the city wants to help us stay open,” he said. 

If the city balked at Iceland’s plan, the rink could be made to shut down for a month while the portable cooling system is installed. 

Berkeley has maintained that Iceland’s cooling system lacks adequate safety features for dealing with a system malfunction and that the city was ill-equiped to contain a potential 4,000-pound ammonia release that could harm residents as far as a mile downwind from the rink. 

Until last May, city officials said they had been led to believe that the cooling system contained only 750 pounds of ammonia, not 4,000 pounds. 

Tiedemann said the Aug. 22 deadline didn’t give Iceland enough time to find a temporary cooling system. 

If the city agrees to the extension, Iceland will contract with Willy Bietak Productions, a supplier to the Ice Capades, to install a portable cooling system. 

Brian Lavano, production manager for Willy Bietak, said the Santa Monica company needed until Sept. 23 because it had too many ongoing projects to install the system by the city-imposed August deadline. City officials say the going rate for a portable cooling system is about $5,000 a month. 

The system would operate from a shipping container at the rink’s parking lot, according to Inouye. He said the portable system would address the city’s short-term concerns because it would require only 800 pounds of ammonia, and would include modern safety features to help the  

Fire Department handle an accidental release of ammonia. 

Inouye said that if the city grants the extension, it was unclear how long they would allow Iceland to stick with a portable system.  

Under an agreement with the city, Iceland was to upgrade its ammonia-based system by November. However, Iceland pushed back the scheduled completion of the repair work to next April. 

City building officials have so far found fault with Iceland’s engineering plans for upgrading its permanent cooling system. Tiedemann sought Monday to dispel talk in City Hall that perhaps the rink would close operations in April after its winter skating teams ended their seasons rather than follow through on repairs. 

“Our intention is to have the work complete after the winter season and our intention is to stay,” he said.