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RCC has safeguards in place, says manager

The Runestone Community Center in Alexandria is "ahead of the curve" in making sure its air quality is safe.

That's according to RCC Manager Vinnie Hennen.

In fact, when the newspaper contacted him on Wednesday, he knew what the topic was going to be before the reporter started asking questions.

Hennen said that the RCC is already meeting or exceeding about 95 percent of the rules the ice rink air quality bill is proposing.

"We're hopefully on top of it," he said. "We always have been. If not, you get into trouble."

The RCC's two ice resurfacers or Zamboni machines are equipped with catalytic converters and computers that monitor oxygen and gas levels.

A gasoline-powered edging machine that trims the outside of the ice was also replaced and now has a catalytic converter.

Eight or nine years ago, the RCC installed a new "toxic alert" system that monitors the carbon monoxide level at both rinks. If it reaches a certain level, fans automatically kick in to clear the air. The setting for that to happen is stricter than the state's requirements, Hennen said.

The RCC also follows a strict maintenance schedule to make sure all of its equipment is operating efficiently, Hennen said. The Zamboni emissions are printed out and checked weekly.

A state inspector, Hennen said, told him that the RCC is ahead of the curve when it comes to air quality requirements.

About the only requirement in the proposed bill that the RCC isn't meeting is the certification of the Zamboni operators, which Hennen said he didn't have a problem with. He said most of his crew would be grandfathered in because of their experience.

Hennen, who has worked at the RCC for 12 years, said he's not aware of any incidents about people getting sick from emissions at the RCC. He recalled one instance when a figure skater complained about the air but the RCC checked and found the air quality was OK.

The key to making sure the air is safe is to keep ahead of the problem with proper maintenance, said Hennen.

"People don't cause the problem - the machines do," he noted. "That's why maintaining the machines is key."

So, overall, Hennen said he is fine with the provisions in the bill and its goal - safe ice rinks.

"I've had three of my own kids skate here," he said. "I don't want anybody to get sick and I don't want that to happen around the state either."

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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