Workers have received minor shocks
By Scott Bellile
New London Aquatic and Fitness Center will address safety concerns and facility needs when a $16,000 electrical system upgrade takes place in May.
Electricians will replace electrical panels that have degraded from humidity and airborne pool chemicals over the years.
“It won’t have any energy savings, but it is a serious concern that should be addressed as soon as possible,” Brent Schmidt, program manager for McKinstry Essention, warned last July. The consulting firm evaluated the pool last year and made recommendations to improve its conditions.
Pool maintenance staff have reported receiving “minor electrical shocks” from touching the panels, McKinstry states in a contract between it and the city.
“Some electrical subpanels in different locations throughout the facility have become corroded and create a significant shock hazard to maintenance staff,” the contract states.
The electricians will also remove unused panels upstairs. Some of those panels became unnecessary after electrical equipment was removed over the years. Abandoned wires upstairs also still pose safety risks.
The New London Parks and Recreation Committee on April 5 recommended to the city council contracting Master Electrical Services of New London to perform the upgrade for $16,171. Master Electrical Services offered the lower bid of two companies.
The city council was set to approve the bid on Tuesday, April 11, after press time.
Building and Grounds Superintendent Ted Christian told the Press Star Monday, April 10, the news on the upgrades will be useful to the public. He said while New London Aquatic and Fitness Center patrons may think the main pool area looks fine, they do not see the rusted fuse boxes or outlets in the closed-off maintenance rooms. These sometimes shock him on the job.
“It’s overdue,” Christian said of the proposed upgrades.
The electrical system will be upgraded during the pool’s annual spring shutdown, scheduled for May 1-15. The pool will reopen May 16 at 9:30 a.m.
The electrical system upgrade is step one in a series of aquatic center improvements. The plan later calls for updates to the air handling system as well as the mechanical system.
“We really do need to look at taking the next step, and we’ll work on those other suggestions in that study that McKinstry did,” New London Parks and Recreation Director Chad Hoerth said April 5. “Because there’s air quality issues that we can address. We can look at doing UV filters … that’ll reduce the chloramines that are in [the pool]. The chloramines are a byproduct of the pool chemicals that really are corrosive in the air.”
The end goal is to connect all the pool’s systems through computers so the units can communicate to one another via internet to keep the facility operating.
At the February parks and recreation committee meeting, Aldermen Rob Way and Tom O’Connell suggested the upgraded electrical system should be large enough to support a bigger facility should the city decide to expand the swimming pool. Currently there are no plans to do so.
Besides the electrical issues, Hoerth said he is looking into other aquatic center problems. Patrons complain the women’s locker room is too cold. There is also a mysterious spike in water and natural gas usage.
The pool used 700,000 to 800,000 gallons of water a year until two years ago, when the amount leaped to about 1.2 million gallons annually.
As for heat, between 2005 and 2010, the pool used 17,000 to 19,000 therms annually. The amount jumped in 2011 and hit a high of 44,000 therms in 2016.
“We’re basically using double the amount of gas now than we did five to 10 years ago,” Hoerth said in February. “There’s nothing really operational-wise to understand why that’s happening. We’re looking in to see what’s going on the best that we can.”
Hoerth said on April 5 the water levels have returned to their normal levels this year, but the gas problem persists. His staff has not solved the mysteries yet.