Toolik Users Forum
August 22, 2004
Mike Abels and Donie Bret-Harte represented the Toolik management team. Mary Anne Evans, Jim Laundre, Peter Ray, Gus Shaver, Chris Crockett, Peter McKinnon, Molly Marvel, and Scott Houghton attended. Donie Bret-Harte recorded these notes, in consultation with others who attended the meeting.
Jim Laundre asked when the new incinerator would arrive, as it was predicted to get here sometime this season. Mike Abels responded that the incinerator is currently in Anchorage, where VPR is building an enclosure for it. It should be installed at Toolik before VPR leaves Toolik this fall. It is not clear whether the incinerator was designed to burn trash, but Mike assured those present that it is a double burner unit that should not produce any odor or particulates if operated correctly.
Chris Crockett asked about the plans for producing lab quality water on site. When Craig Woollard was at Toolik in July, it seemed as if TFS was on the verge of producing lab quality water. Mike commented that Dan White will come to Toolik next week to work on the system. Scott Houghton commented that Craig Woollard did produce 1000 gallons of RO water to test the system, but that one of the pumps malfunctioned and some pipe had not been ordered in a timely fashion. These problems are now rectified. Mike said that ADEC needs to sign off on the system before water can be used in the kitchen or for the showers, but that should not be an impediment to using the water in the labs. Someone on the TFS staff also needs a license to operate the water plant, under remote supervision. Scott would like to become certified as a partial apprentice this winter. The water treatment trailer should be up and running in early June of next year. The membrane units from the water treatment plant will be backhauled to Fairbanks for winter, to protect the units against freezing. Dan White and Chris are now in contact, and plan to touch base before the beginning of field season 05.
Jim Laundre asked about the current plans for the wash-up trailer. Mike commented that the existing old wash trailer and nearby towers will have to be moved in order to start work on the Science Support Building. The solution to the loss of the old wash-up trailer is to expand the existing shower module to add additional wash-up space, which work is planned for next spring. This provoked a long discussion concerning wash-up facilities and laundry.
Peter Ray pointed out that the sinks in the shower module are no good for shaving, because they don't provide hot water in the time it would take to fill a suitable basin. The sink in the old wash-up trailer is much better in this respect. Jim Laundre and Chris agreed that the sinks in the shower module are ok for washing hands, but not for anything else. Also, the existing shower module has very poor ventilation, and there is not enough space for towels. There was general agreement on these points. Scott commented that the windows in the shower module are very small, so cannot provide adequate ventilation. Perhaps fans would improve the situation. Jim agreed, and noted that it is not good to hang the towels in the same area as the showers, because they do not dry. Mike commented that to meet ADEC regulations, towels will have to be hung in lockers without doors, because regular hooks on the wall are not acceptable. Mike also said that Kumin (the architects) will consider ventilation, cubby holes for towels, and hot water in their design for the new wash-up facility.
Jim commented that, if a washeteria is eventually to be built on the residence side of camp, it might make sense to move the shower module over there now, and put in the greywater tank that will eventually be used. There was general agreement that moving the shower to the residence side of camp would be a good idea. However, it was felt that it would be important to retain a hand-washing sink somewhere near the labs.
Jim commented that even with two washers and dryers, there is often a wait to do laundry, even during the week. There was general agreement that the laundry capacity is not adequate during the peak season, and that getting additional washers and dryers should be part of any revision to the washing facilities. At least one more washer and dryer is needed for field season 05. Shower capacity was felt to be adequate at the present time, although some people have reported having to wait in the women's shower.
Mary Anne Evans added that the current location of the shower module is not convenient for those who want to wash their hands before going to supper. Jim and others noted that it would be much better to have a wash-up sink in the arctic entryway to the dining hall, so that people coming into dinner could wash their hands on the way in. An expanded arctic entryway (at least 10 x 20 feet) might also help alleviate the lines that build up at dinner-time, while providing a place for people to wait for food out of the weather. It was also felt that an expanded arctic entryway might allow a more efficient configuration in the food line, so that people could move forward more quickly, without getting in each other's way. This opened a long discussion on the dining hall and kitchen.
The first comment was that a better space for making lunches is needed in the dining hall. The current space is right next to the tables, so that people making lunch bump up against people seating at the tables. Also, it is hard to get stuff in and out of the refrigerators in the midst of general traffic, which makes it harder for the staff and Toolik users to make sure food gets put away after people make lunches. There was general agreement that the dining hall needs to be expanded. Scott suggested that the small refrigerator could be inaugurated as a left-over fridge, which might help to relieve congestion in the main refrigerator. (This refrigerator is on-site and is new; it was the first replacement for the old refrigerator that had doors opening outward, but was too small for the space.) Jim thought that perhaps it would be good to have separate refrigerators for the lunch makings and the leftovers. Peter commented that reducing the number of soda cans in the refrigerator would make more space. There was some discussion over whether having a soda machine would be better than purchasing soda in cans, but some people take the cans into the field for lunch.
Also in the dining hall, it was pointed out that having the coat hooks behind the Preway stove is a hazard when the stove is in operation. Perhaps the expanded arctic entryway could include a lot of coat hooks, and Gus Shaver suggested that a window would also be nice. Scott proposed that in the meantime, the cleaning supplies that are in the existing arctic entryway could be relocated, and additional hooks put in there. Jim wondered if we couldn't get another heat source for the dining hall, and do away with the Preway altogether. Mike suggested that a monitor-type stove might be a better bet, smaller and less hazardous.
People also noted that the ventilation in the dining hall is poor, so that this summer (which was unusually warm), it was often unbearably hot. None of the windows currently open. Scott and Molly Marvel also commented that ventilation in the kitchen is poor, which is hard on the staff members that work in there. Better ventilation in the kitchen would improve the situation in the dining hall, because the kitchen is the source of a lot of the heat. It was also suggested that replacing two of the upper windows with opening windows at each end of the dining hall and putting an exhaust fan in one of them would improve the situation. Opening windows by themselves probably wouldn't be enough. Jim commented that adding more noise to the dining hall was not advisable, so a quiet fan would be necessary. Scott commented that if a larger arctic entryway were built, perhaps the ice machine could be moved out there, which would remove another big heat source from the dining area. Mike commented that the ice machine was only approved for the dining hall (rather than the kitchen) because access is needed for scientific purposes and food service.
Mike commented that plans are proceeding to screen in the back deck, which would provide additional space and extend its usefulness, but that there were some issues about providing a clear path to a fire exit. People were enthusiastic about screening in the porch. Peter and Scott commented that the overflow dining tent is very nice, but that it is a bit of a hassle to get into it, and it is too bad that it is not connected. The base could be rotated or moved, and perhaps a decking path could be used to connect it to the porch. Jim also commented that it would be nice to put a window in the tent that looks out toward the lake.
Scott wondered whether there are plans to provide a larger kitchen/dining area. Mike replied that the kitchen/dining upgrade is the next priority after the Science Support Building. Jim added that anything that could be done to increase the available space in the existing kitchen/dining area now would be helpful. There was general agreement that building a larger arctic entryway onto the front of the dining hall would reduce the crowding and allow more efficient use of the existing dining hall space in the meantime, and should be a high priority for next year.
There was some discussion of the feasibility of moving the manager's office out of the trailer next to the dining hall, to free up more space for dining. It is planned that this will happen eventually, once the Science Support Building is completed, and the fiberoptic terminal is moved there, but the question of whether to move the manager's office earlier was discussed. If the manager's office was moved, the fiberoptic terminal could be enclosed, and perhaps ventilation there could be improved. Jim commented that it was often over 90 degrees F there this summer. The existing wash-up trailer was proposed as one location for the manager's office until the Science Support Building is completed, along with the herbarium and/or library. However, Jim thought that the best use of the washup trailer would be for the herbarium and library, along with the general use computers from the winter lab. (The wash-up trailer is not isotope-free, and it was suggested that it might not be possible to clean it completely, because of the furnace.) Also, since the FAX machine, general use computer, fiberoptic terminal, and other communications equipment all need to be close together, the cost of moving the office before the Science Support Building is completed is probably not worth the gain. Wherever the manager's office might be located, it needs to have a view of the entrance into camp, where trucks and people arrive.
There was some discussion of food. Everyone agreed that the cooks have been working really hard and doing a stellar job under difficult conditions. Jim commented that camp has mostly worked very well, and the food has been good. Scott requested that in the future, there be more vegetables available for lunch, and fewer deep-fried lunch entrees. The type of vegetables usually offered for the salad bar would be good at lunch also. Peter agreed, but remarked that there are a lot more vegetables in the meals now than when he first started coming to Toolik. Molly commented that sometimes the vegetables take so long to arrive at Toolik that they go bad right away. People felt that having continental breakfasts on Sundays generally worked very well as long as plenty of supplies were put out the night before, and that it was very important to give the cooks a bit of a break. Several people commented that it was not necessary to have pizza every Saturday night, and the cooks could be allowed more creativity in developing menus. Jim suggested that purchasing several large air pots in which a gallon or so of coffee could be made at one time would be an improvement over the current coffee maker, especially during peak season. Mary Anne commented that it would be nice to have bulk dispensers for granola, other cereals, nuts, and rice cracker snack mixes. Any bulk items not in dispensers need scoops. There was also a request for more granola bars and better yogurt.
Mary Anne commented that the sofas that Rich has been getting from university surplus for the meeting trailer are mostly not very comfortable, even though they are solidly built. Molly and Scott agreed to serve on a sofa committee, and let Mike know when they found something that was comfortable.
Jim commented that the oven room in lab 2 is really hot. It needs a fan, or better ventilation. This is undoubtedly true in lab 4, as well. Mary Anne added that the -80 degree freezer in lab 1 also makes the central room unbearably hot, and that it could use ventilation as well. It was suggested that all three rooms be retrofitted for fans at the same time.
Chris commented that educational classes using Toolik need a more extensive orientation, for both camp and science issues. It is not completely clear whose responsibility this should be, but large groups have a big impact on residents already here, and it is important to discuss etiquette and encourage sensitivity to residents. Some members of the recent class lingered by sampling units and impeded work by technicians.
Jim commented that it is very important to have a way of identifying staff members with pictures and a job description. It would also be very helpful to post pictures of the scientific liaisons while they are serving. Pictures could be taken with Rich's digital camera and should be printed in a large, easy-to-view size.
Peter commented that the collars in the towers should not be translucent, so that one does not have to look at the contents of the outhouse. Scott offered to paint them black, if Rich agrees.
Chris asked whether he could talk to VPR while they are here about making a better path to the boats. The current path is steep, and covered with gravel that moves underfoot, creating a hazard. Scott has some ideas about possible improvements, also. Mike suggested that they both speak to Jay Burnside now about the scope of what is needed, so that the request can be put into next year's budget. Jay and Chris did talk about the issue before leaving Toolik. Chris may ask Rich to take some digital pictures of the path area before the camp shuts down for the winter.
The issue of providing grey water tanks and a plumbing upgrade for the wet lab was discussed. As soon as the plan for the inside cabinets is completed, VPR will develop a plumbing plan for next year. Chris and Rich Flanders have finished their discussions on the cabinets, and Rich is working on drawing up a detailed floor plan, which Chris will review before it is given to VPR.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the User Forum and provided their comments.