Largo Parks Boss Rejects Tax Savings Idea, Raises Concern on Park Safety
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO – Largo’s Central Park may be the most dangerous area in this part of Pinellas County, according to the city’s Parks, Recreation and Arts Department.
That came out in the department’s recent explanation of why a suggestion to have community involvement in holiday decorations would not work.
The suggestion came as part of a discussion involving residents on ideas to save money in the city’s hard pressed budget.
Commissioner Harriet Crozier followed up on the suggestion which came from a citizen and requested information on what was being done with the idea.
The response came in a Manager’s Report, a weekly release that discusses administrative activities in the city. That report, incidentally, has come out every week for exactly 16 years. It was started by Steve Stanton.
Joan Byrne, boss of RP&A, is credited in the report as the author of the laundry list of reasons community participation in holiday decorations won’t work.
Significant among them is this –
There are “safety concerns regarding electrical (exposed cords presenting trip hazards, balancing demand on circuits, the intersection of irrigation and electrical to name a few) and having a variety of community groups installing their own displays would expose the city to increased liability.”
As to exposed cords lying about, anyone who has attended events at the park have seen, on many occasions, a profusion of electrical extension cords crossing sidewalks every which way, connecting up to sound systems and feeding current to vendors selling hot dogs and drinks, etc.
Another reason given to block community involvement and thus save money is “. . . power in the park is not evenly distributed and even staff (personnel) familiar with the electrical system in the park spend countless hours configuring and reconfiguring lighting displays . . .”
If this is the case, the city should look into the money it expended a few years ago to get the wiring in the park fixed. As one observer noted, “What is being described in the report sounds like some kind of an excuse. Many people know that problem was supposedly taken care of. And if not, we need to get our money back.”
With the kinds of safety concerns being offered by Byrne, it would seem that if the electrical system is such a problem perhaps the park presents too much of a danger in general. The city should perhaps consider closing the park if these dangers exist, as Byrne’s report claims.
One concern expressed in the RP&A response was vandalism. Of course, such decorations would be subject to vandalism no matter who put them up – the city or community involvement. As to another reason – that setting stuff up would require ladders and so forth and this would present a safety problem with attendant liability is vaporous.
First of all, there is no knowledge at this point of what the decorations would be. Secondly, the city has liability, one supposes, on a calm spring day with someone strolling through the park.
Byrne makes the flat statement that “The park cannot simply be divided up into sections and turned over to community groups for decorating.”
One advocate of the community participation, learned in the law, said, “This really is a startling case of commentary on facts not in evidence. There is nothing known now about what shape community involvement would take – if any.”
The word is that Mac Craig, the city manager, was surprised at the Park Department finding excuses to deny community involvement. He thought the idea had a green light, sources say.
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