Council Approves More Rec Center Staff, Upgrade to Filtration System

by SC Reporter Reese Holiday
photos by SC Associate Publisher Chuck Larsen

The Sanibel Recreation Center.

The Sanibel Recreation Center has received the greatest number of serious cuts out of all city departments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanibel Mayor Holly Smith explained.

Now, with effective vaccines widely available, Smith emphasized it’s time to bring back more staff to the center, relieving those who worked tirelessly in the midst of a global health crisis.

They are not just doing the work of one person,” Smith said about the Recreation Center’s retained staff. “They are doing the work of several and I really think that it’s time to recognize that and make sure that we’re getting the people in there to support the job that we want to get done moving forward with the Recreation Center.”

This topic was discussed during a Sanibel City Council meeting on Tuesday where Director of Recreation Patricia Phillips proposed the return of five positions to the center.

Those positions, which are recreation program specialist, recreation program coordinator, lead recreation’s services assistant, senior’s program recreation assistant and senior’s program administrative receptionist, were all unanimously approved by the council.

Phillips said she would like these positions filled by January 2022, right at the peak of the island’s busy season.

In April of this year, council approved the hiring of an aquatics manager at a cost of $30,000 for the remainder of the year to be paid from the department fund. Vice Mayor Richard Johnson said at the time that filling this position was critical for getting the popular aquatics program up and running again.

During Tuesday’s meeting, council also discussed the replacement of the Recreation Center’s first and second chillers on its heating, ventilation and air condition system, or HVAC.

According to a staff memorandum, the council was recommended to award a contract to Johnson Controls Inc, an HVAC company, to replace the first two chillers on the HVAC system.

The memorandum also read that out of six bidding companies for the job, Johnson Controls Inc had the lowest bid at $248,150.

Part of the funding ($137,000) will come from the adopted fiscal year 2021 budget, according to the memorandum. The remaining $111,150 will come from the ending fund balance in the Recreation Center Sinking Fund.

The chillers were originally installed in 2007 and scheduled to be replaced in 2017. However, failure to replace them caused the system, which is used to cool the building at least nine months out of the year, to be found in poor condition by an engineering evaluation, the memorandum read.

This project will replace the outdated chillers with not only new R410-A refrigerant that is more environmentally friendly, but less costly than the old R-22 refrigerant, which is being phased out by the EPA as an environmental issue.

Council unanimously approved to award the HVAC contract to Johnson Controls Inc. with a project start date yet to be determined.

During the May city council meeting, council approved an upgrade to the Recreation Center’s filtration system, which will bring the center’s ventilation up to CDC standards, said Keith Williams, director of Sanibel’s Department of Community Services.

This upgrade took out the building’s old Minimum Efficiency Reporting Values 7 filter, or MERV, and replaced it with a new MERV 13 filter. According to the EPA, the higher the MERV rating, the better the filter is at trapping specific types of particles like COVID-19.

Williams reminded the council and citizens during Tuesday’s meeting that this filtration change will bring the Recreation Center up to CDC standards, but the newer project of replacing the building’s first and second chillers for its HVAC system has nothing to do with the CDC or improving ventilation.

The filtration change brings us to standard based on the filtration requirements for the CDC,” Williams said. “[The chiller replacement project], however, does not address anything relative to CDC in terms of machinery being used to generate cool air for the facility.”

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