Watertown arena removes ice, prepares for emergency use

Updated: Mar. 18, 2020 at 4:52 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - One thing the pandemic emergency needs is space for extra beds if hospitals get full, or to serve as warehouses to distribute needed supplies.

Board by board, the rink at Watertown's municipal arena is coming down a month early this year. COVID-19 cut the season short.

“I made the decision, let’s get the ice out now so in the event that Jefferson County needs it, then we are ready for them,” said Erin Gardner, Parks and Recreation superintendent.

Jefferson County officials say the arena could be used as medical facility or distribution center if needed. After the rink is down, 11 parks and recreation employees will be working from home but Gardner says they are ready to help if called on.

"If they tell us that they are delivering supplies and we need to come in organize those supplies or whatever they need to do, then we are going to be here and ready to help," she said.

Chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators Scott Gray says local hospitals are planning on increasing bed count. He says the old Concentrix building is another place that could be used for extra beds.

"We want to be able to make sure that we are ready to respond to people. This whole thing is about trying to make sure we save lives, we are positioned to save lives," he said.

How would these building be made ready? Gray says he thinks the state would be helping out, turning them into temporary medical facilities.

Officials said 30 to 35 seasonal workers with the Parks and Recreation Department are now temporarily out of work now that the ice has been removed from the arena.

They are considered non-essential and the latest restriction by Governor Cuomo prohibits employers from having more than 50 percent of their employees report to work outside of their homes.

The affected workers are told to reach out to the unemployment office.

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