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Servus Place roof failing sooner than anticipated

Despite anticipated 25-year lifespan, large area of roof requires almost immediate replacement
2408 Servus roof file
Servus Place in St. Albert FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

Pails to catch stray drips and roped off areas of Servus Credit Union Place are indications of a looming problem: large portions of the recreation centre’s roof are beginning to fail sooner than anticipated.

Originally estimated to last 25 years – or until 2031 – the roof will instead require at least partial replacement very soon.

In 2017, a third-party review of the roof’s deficiencies revealed a large portion of the recreation centre’s roof should be considered for replacement within one to three years, according to St. Albert recreation and parks senior manager Kelly McConnell.

“We’re going to have to do something significant before (25 years),” he said. “We are going forward with a plan that we’re going to do some significant repairs in those areas in the next few years.”

McConnell said it would not be necessary to replace the entire roof just yet. St. Albert would instead look at a phased approach, gradually working on problem areas.

Servus Credit Union Place was built with a flat, synthetic rubber roof covered in rock aggregate, a type of roof called EPDM, or ethylene propylene diene terpolymer. McConnell said this type of roof tends to expand or stretch with age, creating seams that water can get into.

“We were having some of those issues with our rubber membrane,” McConnell said. He added in his experience it is “not uncommon” for large square roofs to have issues.

The city refused the Gazette’s request to see that 2017 report, but emailed a summary of recommendations that came out of it, attributed to McConnell.

According to McConnell’s summary, the entire roof area over the Landrex aquatic play centre, leisure ice, fitness centre, changing rooms, meetings rooms, staff office area and common concourse area is “approaching the end of its effective service life.” In 2017 the report said this roof section should be considered for replacement within one to three years.

The Troy Murray/Mark Messier arena should last another five years, “with regular inspection and pro-active maintenance as require.”

Only minor improvements were recommended for the roof area over the gymnasium, field houses and Go Auto arena.

For the past five years, St. Albert has been contracting roofers to patch up leaks as they appear at a price tag of on average $4,000 per year, McConnell said.

McConnell said he could not speculate on a time frame or price estimate yet but said by this time next year the city will have a “concrete plan.”

“We weren’t sitting on (the 2017 report), we just had other priorities,” he said.

However, a “high level” estimate to replace the entire roof would be around $1.5 to $2 million, McConnell said.

St. Albert is still paying off its debt for construction of Servus Place. According to St. Albert’s 2019 capital budget $13.7 million is remaining on the balance to be paid off.

This summer has been a particularly rainy one, which McConnell said has caused Servus Place’s roof issues to “stand out.” There has been 293 millimetres precipitation in St. Albert since the beginning of April.

“If we were having a hot and dry summer, we probably wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” he said. “But the reality is when you get unusual volumes your deficiencies certainly tend to stand out a little bit more.”

One St. Albertan who uses Servus Credit Union Place on a daily basis said he has noticed leaking in the facility for about two years. While walking on the track or lifting weights, Tom Murray said he would sometimes be dodging pails put out to catch water falling from the ceiling.

“We’re just sort of bemused and kept thinking, well they have a roof leaking, so they’ll fix it one of these days,” said Murray. “Then the pails kept showing, pails kept showing.”

Murray added he does not care the roof is leaking after only 13 years, he simply wants the “wonderful building” repaired.

“It isn’t sexy fixing a roof, but it’s a wonderful asset and they should fix it before there’s more damage and a bigger bill,” he said.

Money for repairs

For any major repairs, the city will turn to its lifecycle replacement program for Servus Credit Union Place. McConnell said there is money in St. Albert’s lifecycle program for an eventual replacement of Servus Place’s roof, but it has been budgeted for a 25-year life span.

Each year, the city decides how much to set aside for Servus Place’s lifecycle replacement program when passing its repair, maintenance and replacement (RMR) budget. This year, that number was $301,300.

These roof repairs come at a time when St. Albert has already been forced to take a hard look at its RMR budget, due to an approximate $16-million shortfall in that budget. Typically, the municipality has relied on provincial and federal grants to assist with the deficiency in funds, but those grant streams are at risk.

St. Albert has looked to cover this shortfall with a short-term solution of 1.5 per cent tax hikes each year for three, beginning in 2020. City council passed a motion during their Aug. 19 meeting directing administration to look at alternatives and bring them back to council by Feb. 2021.

Hannah Lawson

About the Author: Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2019 after working as editor of the Athabasca Advocate. She writes about city hall.
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