Ooh, that smell at the ARC sends youth center packing | AspenTimes.com
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Ooh, that smell at the ARC sends youth center packing

Janet Urquhart

Paint fumes have driven the Aspen Youth Center out of the Aspen Recreation Center until the paint job in the swimming pool area is finished.The youth center relocated its operations to the Aspen Elementary School cafeteria last week after center officials became concerned that the fumes presented a health hazard, said Carolyn Glah, a vice president on the youth center’s board of directors.”We felt it was an unsafe environment,” she said yesterday. “We felt, for the safety of our staff and the safety of our children, we had to move out of the building.”A staffer wound up with a headache last week, apparently from the fumes, she said.The youth center won’t return to the ARC until Nov. 29 or when the work is completed, Glah added.The ARC swimming pools have been shut down since early September to accommodate the stripping of paint from all the metal surfaces in the room and their repainting.City officials initially expected activity in the Aspen Youth Center and Lewis Ice Arena to continue unaffected during the pool closure, but shortly after the sandblasting began to remove paint, the youth center moved into a lower-level meeting room at the ARC. A fine dust had infiltrated the second-floor youth center, which separates the pool side of the building from the ice arena.”There was a fine layer of dust over everything in the youth center … then, when they started painting, it was the fumes issue,” Glah said.During its sojourn at the school across the street, the youth center has limited its hours to 3 to 6 p.m., but daily admission is free instead of the usual $2. Games like billiards and table tennis aren’t available at the school, but board games and card games are offered, along with homework help, Glah said.Ed Sadler, assistant city manager, blamed last week’s fumes on the weather. A low-pressure system kept the fumes settled in the building; fans set up in the pool area couldn’t dissipate them, he said.The concentration of fumes in the youth center wasn’t toxic, according to Sadler, though center users found them unpleasant. Workers doing the painting have only worn dust masks, he said.”Just because you can smell something doesn’t make it harmful,” Sadler told the City Council last night. “Yeah, you can spray Lysol in the air, you can smell that, too. That doesn’t mean it will kill you.”To ensure the fumes wouldn’t be a headache for weekend No. 2 of the three-weekend Aspen Fall Face-Off hockey tournament in the building, however, the spray-paint work was suspended last Friday and Saturday, he said.The city hopes to see the pools reopen in time for Thanksgiving weekend. The paint job is wrapping up; the question is how long it will take to hang sound baffles, then dismantle the scaffolding and refill and heat the pools, Sadler said.The baffles, which the city hopes will cut down on the din in the pool area when it’s crowded, will go up when the repainting winds down. The scaffolding that’s already in place for the paint work can be used to hang the baffles from the ceiling, Sadler said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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