The plan to replace the old, propane-powered Zamboni at Sackville’s Civic Centre with a new $185,000 electric one was one of the highlights as Tantramar Town Council approved a 2023 capital budget yesterday of just over $3.8 million.
Council authorized just over $2.5 million in potential borrowing mainly for water and sewer projects in Sackville and Dorchester as well as an $800,000 fire truck in Dorchester.
Almost $1.3 million in capital spending will be paid for out of tax revenues. Aside from replacing the Zamboni, $200,000 has been allocated for a new sidewalk plow in Sackville with money for paving projects and fire department gear in both Sackville and Dorchester along with building maintenance, including development of a new fire hall in Dorchester and remediation of the village offices there, closed because of poor air quality.
But in the long list of storm sewer upgrades, culvert replacements and equipment purchases, replacement of the propane-powered Zamboni stood out.
“It has reached its end of useful life,” Acting Treasurer Michael Beal told council. “It was purchased in 2004 when we opened our Civic Centre, which is nearly 20 years ago.”
He added that a new $185,000 electric ice resurfacing machine would fit with the municipality’s ongoing green initiatives.
But Councillor Bruce Phinney, a persistent green skeptic, had questions.
“I’m curious to know, how much is the cost of a regular Zamboni, propane-wise, as compared to $185 (thousand) for the electric?” Phinney asked.
Todd Cole, manager of parks and facilities, answered that propane ones are approximately $25,000 to $30,000 cheaper than electric Zambonis.
“It’s not good for the environment, so we’re certainly looking at switching to electric,” Cole said, adding that the town is looking at everything it buys in light of climate change.
“I’m asking because of the fact that the power rates are going up,” Phinney said. “So, what’s the trade-off in the cost of electricity as compared to propane?”
Michael Beal answered that propane costs fluctuate too.
“The other aspect I would say with that as well, we’re burning propane on the inside of a closed-in facility, so the fact that running an electric machine versus the propane fumes would be a benefit,” Beal added.
(A Health Canada study concludes that in arenas across the country, electric ice resurfacers are the most effective way of eliminating deadly carbon monoxide as well as nitrogen oxides linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.)
When Phinney asked if town staff had looked at other places with electric Zambonis, Todd Cole answered that he learned at a recreation facilities conference that a lot of rinks, including the one in Amherst, have switched to electric.
He said that some municipalities have gone past first-generation electric Zambonis to second-generation ones with much improved, longer-lasting batteries.
“Quispamsis, for example, I was speaking to them and they’re very impressed with the new Zamboni,” Cole added.
(CBC reported recently that although electric Zambonis are more expensive to buy, they’re cheaper to operate and maintain and are therefore, easier on municipal budgets.)
Michael Beal said the town would evaluate whether to send the propane-powered Zamboni to replace a much older machine that resurfaces the outdoor rink in Dorchester.
“The Dorchester one is about 40 years old,” he said, adding it might make sense to send Sackville’s Zamboni to Dorchester where it would be used less frequently.
So far, the former LSDs have not been included in this year’s capital budget except for $85,100 that is being set aside in a reserve fund for the purchase of a new fire truck for Point de Bute in 2029.
However, Beal pointed to an extra $73,935 that Tantramar will receive from the federal gas tax fund because of amalgamation.
“What are the projects within local service districts that we could spend that money on other than roads because roads are a provincial responsibility?” he asked.
“We’re going to put our thinking caps on, if anybody has any suggestions or recommendations, then bring them forward,” Beal said.
“We will look to that over the next month or two and bring back [a] recommendation as soon as we have something on that.”