HIGHGATE — Thieves caused approximately $10,000 in damage after stealing copper piping needed to operate the refrigeration system for the Highgate arena, said Vermont State Police.
Police report the theft occurred at around midnight Friday. It was discovered Friday morning when workers arrived to install a new dehumidifier, said Don Gilbert, president of the facility board of the Missisquoi Amatuer Hockey Association (MAHA).
The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact the St. Albans barracks at 524-5993.
Gilbert released a statement Saturday saying the thieves had been unable to gain access to the building itself, but had gotten into a fenced in area around the condenser. The pipe was taken from there.
He added this morning that the damage done exceeds the value of the stolen copper.
Repairmen were called to the site on Friday to provide an estimate of the damage. The town and MAHA are working with the town’s insurance company to get the pipe replaced and the damage repaired, according to Gilbert.
The insurance company has been given the estimates. “We don’t know what approach the insurance company will want to take,” said Gilbert. If the company wants to replace the entire condenser the start of the ice season will be delayed.
If repairs can be made without replacing the condenser, the arena should be able to open as scheduled, he explained.
MAHA and the Highgate Selectboard have been working to determine the future of the arena. The 40-year-old arena is in need of repairs, including to the refrigeration system, which currently leaks Freon, a violation of environmental law.
Efforts to turn the arena into a tri-town recreation center owned by Swanton, Highgate and Franklin failed when Swanton voters rejected the proposal.