Farmington cash-for-ice deal raises concern
Money to help maintain ice arena
A Farmington City Council member questioned the morality of a $100,000 deal between the city and the Farmington Youth Hockey Association on Monday night.
“I’m really ashamed of this recommendation,” Council Member Julie May said.
Her concern focused on a 10-year contract for the city to give the Farmington Youth Hockey Association prioritized ice time scheduling at the Schmitz-Maki Ice Arena in exchange for $10,000 per year.
The money will be used for arena maintenance and projects.
Farmington council members agreed to the contract Monday with a 4-1 vote, with May the lone opposing vote.
Under the agreement, the small Tri County Ice Figure Skating Club moves from years of top ice reservation priority, just after the city, to lowest priority, below the Senior Men’s Hockey league.
Farmington Parks and Recreation Director Randy Distad said the skate club fell below senior men’s hockey because the senior citizens typically only use the rink for an hour late Wednesday nights, a time the youth organizations do not want.
Farmington’s ice rink is home for the young group of skaters that train, perform and compete in ice skating events.
May said she was ashamed of the resolution because the organization does not have the money to match the association’s offer.
“I just think it’s morally wrong that we’re going to sit here and whoever will give us more money will get priority,” she said.
Council Member Christy Jo Fogarty said youth hockey is the Schmitz-Maki Arena’s biggest user, but has had last place in ice reservations for years.
In 2011, youth hockey reserved about 750 hours of ice time and the skate club rented about 70 hours, according to Distad.
Fogarty added that the association has a vested interest in maintaining the building, and was willing to give the money regardless of the ice reservation process, but preferred a higher scheduling priority.
“They understand that the city’s financial position is one where we need all the help that we can get to ensure that that building continues to survive,” Fogarty said.
Under the agreement, half of the money given by the association will pay for operational expenses and the other half placed in a fund for future arena improvements.
The city agreed to consult with the association about how the money in that fund is spent but has final say on which improvements it will fund.
During an interview, Mayor Todd Larson said he supported the agreement because the hockey association is the city’s “No. 1 customer in the arena.”
He said the same offer was discussed two years ago when they were talking about arena improvements, but “it never got put on paper.”
Council Member Jason Bartholomay told Sun Thisweek he also supported the resolution, in part because there are 430 youths involved in the hockey program, compared with about 12 to 14 youths ages 12 and up in the skating program.
Younger skaters, starting with preschool, are handled through the city programs, Distad said.
“I also was concerned that really young kids weren’t going to have to skate crazy hours,” Bartholomay said.
He added that as a former hockey coach, he knows ice time often opens up during the season that the skate club could use.
If the association does not pay the fee, the city will not have to provide the priority scheduling, Farmington City Attorney Joel Jamnik said.