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Keeping up with the PACC: City leaders set to meet with PACC board members to discuss improvement needs

The Perham Area Community Center Board will be bringing preliminary plans for an upgraded facility to the Perham City Council meeting Monday night. Brian Hansel/FOCUS1 / 4
Stoll2 / 4
Turgeon3 / 4
Murphy4 / 4

The Perham Area Community Center is running toward its third decade of operation, and there are folks who believe it needs some shaping up.

City leaders and PACC Board members will meet Monday evening at City Hall to review what plans the board has come up with for upgrading the popular center.

PACC Director Betty Murphy is part of the group that would like to gain some significant money from a sales and use tax to help finance improvements and betterments to the facility. If approved by the voters in November, the tax would generate $5.2 million of which $3.46 million would go directly toward the PACC project.

Two of the leading items on the membership's Wish List are a Splash Pad and a Playland for younger members. The cost of a Splash Pad, which would give little children more use of the pool area, varies a lot, according to Murphy.

"Some that are pretty simple and some that are pretty advanced," Murphy said.

A Playland area would also be a draw for younger families with small children.

"We are trying to fill the need of the community, and that is one piece we could improve on quite a bit here," said Murphy, who has only been director of the 66,000-square foot center since June. "It's a lot to be proud of, it's user-friendly. It's got pieces for everybody for the most part. It would be nice to start doing things for the younger families. I like little people. I like all ages."

But there are also other needs, both mechanical and structural. Murphy believes the PACC could see a big savings on heating and cooling bills by putting money into insulation.

According to John Turgeon, who served as the building's maintenance man from the time it was built until his retirement earlier this summer, the building is insulated but it could be insulated much better.

"It is insulated, but poorly," Turgeon said. "The building was made to get as much square footage as cheaply as possible, and then we would work on the energy side of things as time developed, and that is pretty much what we did," Turgeon said. "At the time, to do a high-end wall like they do now, it just drove the price up too much."

The styrofoam beads used for insulation has disappeared from portions of the wall over the year for one reason or another. Turgeon recalls several times when a hole was drilled in an outside wall and there was no insulation inside.

"It was a poor system, but it was a good system because it was able to get the building up and going," Turgeon said. "It's kind of like you can have a Cadillac and you can drive to the same spot with a Volkswagen. One is just going to be a little nicer."

In 1989 the original building was constructed at a cost of $1.5 million dollars. An addition was added in the mid-'90s. Turgeon saw some major mechanical and structural work done at the PACC in his time there, and before leaving he left the board with a list of other needs.

"One of the main things that happened was that the fieldhouse ceiling was completely redone," Turgeon said. "The existing vapor barrier that was on the bottom side of it had deteriorated away. Because of that, we were getting vapor through the insulation. It would hit the metal roof and condensate and freeze into ice, and then when you got a nice warm winter day, it would start to rain in there. The ceiling was completely stripped out, it was refoamed, we had fire coating put over the top of it, and that took care of everything. The problem is that we need to do that to the rest of the original building."

There are some big-ticket decisions to be addressed at the PACC, according to Turgeon.

"The ceiling in the pool is a major, major project. The only way to go about it is that the entire structure has to be scaffolded up to the ceiling."

The dehumidification system also needs attention. Most systems do not last longer than 20 years, and Perham's has been in place for 29.

"The system operates well, but there is one major deficiency," Turgeon said. "The dehumidifier uses pool water to cool the condensers, and then returns it back to the pool, slightly heated. That was some state of the art stuff thing that was done in '89, and they were pretty proud of it. There was one key part that was missing out of that. We looked at it several times over the years, and that was a quarter of a million dollar addition."

While the dehumidifier still works well, Turgeon believes an upgrade is called for after 29 years.

"One of the original costs we got for that was a quarter of a million also," Turgeon said.

PACC Board Member Tony Stoll acknowledged Turgeon's insights, but added the board hired an aquatics consultant.

"They've got recommendations for pool equipment," Stoll said. "John did a great job of slowly tweaking it and keeping it running and keeping the quality of the pool water up, but one of the thoughts is that it is time to upgrade some of the filter systems they have these days."

Turgeon feels more of the major mechanical work might have been done before this point, but the emphasis has been on keeping membership rates low.

The PACC has a very strong membership base. At the time Turgeon retired, the membership of the PACC's membership base was the highest it has been since it opened — 3,960.

Like Murphy, Turgeon is proud of the PACC.

"We got a big project for the amount of money that went into it," Turgeon said. "I am proud of what Perham did to get it going. It functions really well. It has seen lots and lots of people. To me, that just screams that this building needs to be there," Turgeon said.

Stoll is also encouraged by the membership numbers, but he realizes that not all of the upgrades to the PACC are going to come under the heading of new and fun.

"It's no different than anyone building a house," Stoll said. "Everybody wants to have the nice wood floors and the marble or granite countertops...they don't care about how its held up structurally and mechanically and all the stuff that happens behind the curtains. We want to look at making sure that part about major renovation is going to set this building up to be successful for the long haul. Some of it is going to be energy improvements."

Stoll said the board is looking at options on how they might "re-skin" portions of the outside of the PACC to go from having little or no insulation to having something that is easier to control.

"There are a lot of balls in the air," Stoll said.