Montomgery County puts a freeze on ice rink opening date in Silver Spring
Contractor selected Friday but still must secure permits; rink may open after Nov. 20
As the county finalizes its selection of a contractor to run an ice rink in downtown Silver Spring, Montgomery officials say next weekend's opening date that had been reported on its website may have been too lofty a goal.
The ice rink, to be located on Veterans Plaza, was tentatively set to open Nov. 20 after the Thanksgiving Parade, according to the downtown Silver Spring website. But county officials confirmed Friday that a contractor was selected that day and still needs to secure business permits to operate the rink.
"The contractor still anticipates beginning on the 20th, and I guess I can say I'm cautiously optimistic," said David Dise, the director of the Department of General Services.
The contractor's name will not be announced until Monday, Dise said.
The county took months to negotiate the price and operating conditions of the rink, he said, including how certain expenses, like electricity, would be computed. It's not uncommon for negotiations to take this long, Dise said.
Rink Management Services Corp. had previously been named the contractor, but Dise said the announcement of that company was done in error.
Dise said he believes the ice rink will be open no later than Dec. 1.
Reemberto Rodriguez, the director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, said the Nov. 20 date published on the website was never a firm opening date.
"We never had a set date; we want to do this right, not rushed," he said. "We're not going to commit to a specific date. That would be irresponsible. It was an oversight on our part to float a date on the website."
But Jennifer Nettles, the manager of Downtown Silver Spring for Peterson Cos., which manages the Ellsworth Avenue properties, where Veterans Plaza is located, said she was originally told the opening date was set for Nov. 20.
"It's kind of a bummer we can't do it then," Nettles said. "Its economic impact it hasn't been there, so it shouldn't impact much but we were really looking forward to it. Hopefully we'll hear the date soon because I know people were really looking forward to it."
Darian Unger, a Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board member, said he was also told Nov. 20 would be the date. He said delays to the rink opening, coupled with delays to the veterans' memorial artwork that is supposed to go into the plaza, are disappointing.
"The community is frequently told one thing before a project and then something else as the project continues, like it has to be downsized or it's going to be late," Unger said. "Those sorts of changes or project management problems, they hurt the community, they hurt trust in government, and it would be good to improve on that so that the community gets what it's promised."
But Rodriguez described the last 18 months as "dizzying activity" in Silver Spring and at the new civic building. With budget cuts and changes in staff, residents need to be patient as everything gets up and running.
"The change of guards and staffing changes and the budget situation last year, that just made the whole process that much more onerous, challenging and difficult," he said. "At this point, we're confident that we're well on our path to having the ice rink functioning in a timely manner."