The mystery of the $109,756 in equipment missing from the Brainerd Area Civic Center is no mystery to Mark Rodorigo, owner of Commercial Refrigeration Systems Inc. in Virginia.
Rodorigo's company removed the equipment from the civic center in 1999 as part of a project to create one ice plant for both the civic center and Gold Medal Arena.
The ice plant equipment has become an issue for the city of Brainerd after city council member Bob Olson earlier this year questioned who authorized its removal and why it wasn't taken off the arena's fixed assets list.
Rodorigo said the equipment that couldn't be reused was junk and its removal was part of his contract with the city.
"It wasn't worth anything, it was scrap," Rodorigo said. "It was to be moved out of the arena and disposed of."
Olson, however, disagrees. He said the equipment shouldn't have been removed without the approval of the city council.
City Administrator Dan Vogt said no city council minutes from 1999 show the city council gave approval and he doesn't remember having a conversation at the time with Rodorigo or the arena manager about what was happening with the ice plant. He also said there was nothing in bids or specifications that said Rodorigo was going to take all old equipment out of the arena.
"During the building of the arena he (Vogt) had his hands on the operation of it. I can't believe he didn't know what happened to this $109,000 worth of equipment," Olson said.
As far as removing the ice plant equipment from the fixed assets list, Vogt said Finance Director Theresa Goble was never told that the assets weren't at the arena any longer and therefore the equipment was left on the list.
"We weren't told on this end that the assets weren't there anymore," Vogt said.
Olson said in March he noticed the $109,756 in equipment listed on the arena's fixed assets list wasn't in the arena but was still on the city's depreciation schedule. He said in two years the equipment would have depreciated out and no one would have noticed it was missing.
"It's the taxpayers that are out on this," Olson said. "It is the responsibility and duty of the finance director and the city administrator to give correct information to the auditor and this information was incorrect."
The equipment has since been removed from the fixed assets list, Vogt said.
The equipment in question included pumps, compressors and a condenser that were installed as part of a $500,000 project -- half of which was funded through a Mighty Ducks grant from the state -- to upgrade the ice plant to handle both the civic center and the Gold Medal Arena.
Rodorigo said part of his work order for the project was determining what current equipment could be used and what couldn't. He said instead of just leaving the scrap equipment for the city to pay to take care of he disposed of it. He said most of the equipment was more than 30 years old.
"It was part of the project scope, it was all salvage," Rodorigo said. "We had to handle, move and scrap all this stuff. If I didn't have to I wouldn't have done it. Moving that stuff around is not cheap. You have to haul it, dispose of it -- everything."
Rodorigo said a compressor and an evaporator condenser were to be reused. He said the condenser was too small and another was be purchased to complement the first, but instead he decided to install a larger condenser in a trade off with the city for the two other condensers. He said he sold the second condenser to the city of Crosby. Olson said Rodorigo shouldn't have sold the condenser to Crosby because it was the city's and he wasn't given council approval. Rodorigo said once he had exchanged the smaller condensers for the larger one, where the smaller one went wasn't up to the city.
One piece of equipment unaccounted for, said Vogt, is a dehumidifier. Rodorigo said he didn't take the dehumidifier as part of the project.
The council July 18 authorized up to $1,000 to hire financial consultants Larson Allen Weishair and Co. to answer questions concerning the ice arenas. Vogt said he expects the report back by the end of this month.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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