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Decision, not discussion on ice arena

There appears to be a disconnect between messages about the need for action to fix the ice surface at Schmitz-Maki Arena. Ever since it became clear vital equipment at the 30-year-old arena was in danger of failing the message has been that the city needs to decide quickly what to do with the building. And city officials have said they need to start moving ahead with plans by January in order to have the arena ready for the 2010-11 high school hockey season. Yet after months of discussions the Farmington City Council has yet to take any definitive action.

On Monday night council members put off for at least another month a decision on awarding a contract for feasibility study. Council members said they wanted to wait to hear from a task force that will consider the issue. It is a task force that, so far as we can tell, consists at this point only of city administrator Peter Herlofsky, District 192 superintendent Brad Meeks and perhaps a representative of Farmington Youth Hockey. So far as we know, that group has yet to hold a meeting.

Task forces certainly have their place. They can provide valuable input. But this isn't exactly a new issue. The council has been talking for months about the need for repairs, and there were discussions before that about the possibility of adding additional sheets of ice to the facility, or whether it made sense to start over somewhere else. It seems unlikely this new task force, whatever its eventual makeup, will come to a dramatically different conclusion, so revisiting those conversations now seems like a waste of time when we have been told is of the essence.

A task force works best when it has time to dig into an issue, to look at how other have approached similar problems. And that does not appear to be the case here. If there was a time for a task force to discuss the arena's future, it was early in the discussion, not now as the city prepares to make a decision.

The city does not need a task force. The city needs a decision.