Acting City Manager Bill Howell said, despite the frozen pipes at the Yukon Kuskokwim Fitness Center, the water in the pool is at 83 degrees. (Dean Swope/KYUK)

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Fitness Center has been closed since Christmas. What started as a few frozen pipes has turned into a medley of mechanical problems, all triggered by the recent cold snap.

Acting City Manager Bill Howell says the city started seeing problems at the fitness center around Christmas Day.

“It was initially found that we had some shower drains that were frozen. That was resolved pretty quickly,” Howell said.

But the cold didn’t let up, and more problems followed. After workers thawed the shower drains, the sewer lift station froze.

“After that, we discovered there was a frozen fire sprinkler system,” Howell said.

Then, they discovered that the computer system began disfunctioning that controls the boilers, pumps and valves to heat the building.

“We just had a lot of things go wrong all at once,” Howell said. “It’s kind of a perfect storm.”

Howell says it could take a few weeks to ship in the parts needed to repair the computer system. However, the comupter system doesn’t need to be completely fixed to open the facility. As soon as workers thaw the fire sprinkler system and the drains, the facility will open.

“Our most optimistic estimates are a week to 10 days,” Howell said on Dec. 31.

Thawing those pipes will be difficult. Howell says both the sprinklers and the drainage pipes run underneath an unheated crawl space. 

“They’re trying to find more ways to get more heat into that area,” Howell said. “They have not identified that solution yet.”

The city’s maintenance staff is working almost 24-hour shifts to figure out how to heat the crawl space. Howell says the city has funds allocated for emergencies to pay workers overtime. 

Howell says the reason so many parts of the fitness center broke at once is mostly a product of our environment.  

“I think it’s ambitious to put a pool in a subarctic environment to begin with,” Howell said. “But there’s a lot going on in this building. I can see how the folks who engineered it may have missed a few of the nuances that would have prevented some of these things.”

Despite the malfunctioning computer system, the unheated crawl space, and the frozen pipes, Howell remains optimistic about the long-term prospects for the fitness center.

“This is not the demise of the pool,” Howell said. “We’re aware of what’s at stake and how important this facility is to the community, and we’re taking appropriate action.”

In the short-term, Howell says, a little warmer weather would help out a lot.