Troubled Waters Park

September 29, 1994

Quiet Waters Park is looking more and more like Troubled Waters Park. The ice rink at the Annapolis area park cost taxpayers nearly $1 million and now isn't worth a plugged nickel; at the ripe old age of four years, it's falling apart and will be closed for a second winter in a row. The roofs on two park buildings, a visitor and a conference center, are leaking. After spending $18 million to build Quiet Waters, taxpayers are looking at a bill of $615,000 to $775,000 to fix the rink and replace the roofs.

But this mess isn't their fault, and they shouldn't have to pay for it.

It's pretty clear that two contractors didn't deliver the product they promised. Instead of a rink that would last 25 years, the county got one that malfunctioned after three; the steel pipes that carry refrigerant beneath the ice are leaking. At first, C.W. Davis Inc. of New York seemed committed to fixing it. But having tried and failed, they want out. As far as the roofs are concerned, an independent contractor examined them and had a hard time finding anything the builder, Cusimano & Sons Inc. of Annapolis, did right. The contractor told the county the roofs weren't built according to industry standards.

Anne Arundel County officials are talking about suing. They should. They owe it to taxpayers to recoup the losses. In the meantime, the county has little choice but to try to come up with $475,000 to fix the roofs to prevent the buildings from deteriorating. What to do about the ice rink is a more difficult question.

On one hand, it makes sense to try to fix it as soon as possible. It's a popular facility, it generates about $40,000 a year in profits and maintaining a broken rink costs as much as maintaining one that works -- not to mention the fact that the county has a cool million invested in this project. On the other hand, recreation officials point out that chances of winning a lawsuit could be endangered if they make permanent repairs now, thus destroying the evidence of shoddy workmanship. They also note that even if they started making repairs tomorrow the rink wouldn't be ready before the holidays, the peak of the skating season. So it looks as if there won't be outdoor skating there again this year.

So much for the old adage about getting what you pay for.

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