The City of Saline won’t be offering free public skating at the Henne Field ice rink next winter.
Moments after asking city staff to look for about $10,000 in the budget to fund Saline Main Street, city council found a chunk of it when it decided not to fix the rink this year.
DPW Director Jeff Fordice said that the ice rink needed a new liner, which cost about $1,500. In addition, some new boards were needed. In all, there was $5,000 in the proposed budget for the ice rink.
Councillor Linda TerHaar said she was concerned with the amount of DPW staff time spent on the rink.
“In the seven years the rink has been here, how many did we have winters where the rink received the usage we envisioned?” TerHaar asked.
Fordice said there were probably two winters where the ice rink was open a significant amount of time.
“So as I look at the number of hours spent by the DPW on the rink, we’re looking at the equivalent of 2 and half weeks of full-time work. Given our budget budget discussion and our staffing discussion, regarding the DPW, it seems to me that for the return we’ve gotten, the staff time could be far better used in other ways,” TerHaar said. “I would suggest we eliminate the ice rink altogether. There’s $5,000, aside from staff time, that could be spent elsewhere. I won’t say where.”
Council members and staff chuckled. They’d just finished a 65-minute discussion that resulted in council directing city staff to find $10,000 in the budget so it could be reprogrammed to Saline Main Street.
Mayor Brian Marl asked Fordice if not having an ice rink in 2017-18 would prevent the city from having one in the future. Fordice said the rink could stay in storage. A new liner would be required, though.
Marl asked council to consider TerHaar’s proposal.
All of the council members agreed with TerHaar.
Councillor Janet Dillon suggested that since it was installed on school property at Henne Field, perhaps Saline Area Schools should fix, install and maintain the rink.
“For the six people who used it this year, it’s just not worth it,” Dillon said. “It’s not just the cost, it’s taking the workers away from those other projects. The DPW has such a short staff to begin with.”