Fire Chief: Air quality ordinance 'never intended to close businesses,' ice rinks aren't dangerous

Emergency order 'was a typo'

EVENDALE, Ohio -- Supporters and patrons of Evendale's Sports Plus and Northland Ice Center were preparing for a fight against an emergency ordinance that could mean hefty fines and losses for the two ice rinks.

Now, Evendale Fire Chief Michael Hauck said the "emergency" portion of the ordinance was "a typo."

"We've discussed this with the rinks' owners and operators," Hauck said. "Now the ordinance is just on a second reading."

The ordinance was first discussed amongst the Evendale Village Council in February. An emergency ordinance would have meant immediate action; now, Hauck said he doesn't expect anything to go into effect until mid-summer.

"In the meantime, we're working to help educate (the rink owners/operators), possibly make some modifications that they're in agreement with," Hauck said.

Hauck said the fire department encountered carbon monoxide hazards at both rinks in the past.

"Over the last couple of years, we made several runs (to the rinks) that didn't start out as CO runs, but turned into them," the chief said. "Once we cared for the patient, we would start an investigation into the carbon monoxide levels."

Hauck said Evendale's fire department is equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. In the incidents mentioned at Sports Plus and Northland, the alarms sounded.

He did say, however, that the public shouldn't be worried to go to Northland or Sports Plus.

"Absolutely not," Hauck said. "Both facilities are safe. They had minor issues that were since corrected."

Initially, operators of the two ice rinks said they would need to shut down operations if an emergency ordinance passes, permitting fines and business closures for air emissions violations. Northland and Sports Plus -- now home to virtually all of Greater Cincinnati’s youth, high school and college hockey teams -- and their patrons planned to voice concern to the council Tuesday at 7 p.m. 

When that meeting actually took place, there was a second reading of the ordinance, but no vote.

"We wished we would have been notified, maybe after the first reading, instead of Thursday," said Rich Szturm, owner of Northland Ice Center. "

Email chains circulated late last week encouraging parents -- many of whom do not live in Evendale -- to contact the village council in opposition to the ordinance.

“We as a hockey community need to react responsibly and constructively,” read one email from the Cincinnati Swords youth hockey organization. "We encourage a show of support so that the Evendale council has a glimpse at the number of patrons who come and do business in their city every day."

Sports Plus owner Greg Martini said the ordinance would have likely closed his business permanently.

"The first thing that sort of amazed me is that a village would even propose an ordinance because this is the first municipality that has proposed an ordinance like this in the entire country," he said.

Hauck said the ordinance was never intended to close businesses.

"The ordinance is in no way, shape or form had the intention to close businesses," Hauck said. "We just want to keep people safe."

Initially, the ordinance read that it will “adopt chapter 882 of the codified ordinances of the Village of Evendale, regulate indoor ice arenas and declare an emergency." Hauck said the emergency language will be removed.

Hauck said the ordinance is inspired by those made for ice arenas in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Connecticut, all dictated by the STAR (Serving American Rinks) organization. Evendale's ordinance would not be as strict as STAR's, Hauck said, with 10 carbon monoxide parts per million more allowed than the STAR guideline.

Ordinances like these only exist at the state level, Hauck said, so a village ordinance would be a first.

The reason ice rinks are specifically targeted by the ordinance is because factories and warehouses -- and other facilities with heavy machinery that emit carbon monoxide like Zambonis -- already have carbon monoxide guildelines governed by OSHA and the EPA.

Nitrogen oxide will also be addressed in the ordinance, Hauck said.

Martini said the carbon monoxide detectors already installed at Sports Plus were purchased from the fire department.

"We had issues with those detectors continuously going off," Martini said, when asked about carbon monoxide level concerns at Sports Plus. "Our levels are well below all industry standards."

Sports Plus and Northland retained legal counsel to combat any conflicts resulting from the ordinance, attorneys confirm.

The Cincinnati area hockey community was displaced last summer when The Cincinnati Gardens was sold to the The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. Elder, La Salle, Moeller and St. Xavier high schools' hockey teams all moved from The Gardens to Sports Plus and Northland ice rinks for practices and games. Xavier University, the Cincinnati Swords and the Cincinnati Thunder also moved from The Gardens.

RELATED: High school hockey teams displaced, rallying for rinks at the Gardens to stay open through season

RELATED: After port's acquisition, is there enough time for one more hockey season at the Gardens?

WCPO has reached out to Evendale Mayor Richard H. Finan, Vice Mayor Jeff Albrinck and Village Council members John Ranz, Jr., William D. Puthoff, Jr.,  and Christian J. Schaefer and is still awaiting response.

Print this article Back to Top