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Council's Resolution Raises Question
April 16, 2008 - A resolution passed by the Knightstown Town Council earlier this month has raised additional issues about who will be allowed to operate a new $7,400 mower the local park board purchased and whether the mower is town or park property.
Two weeks ago, the council passed Resolution 3-2008, which established a personnel policy regarding the use of town equipment. The resolution restricts the use of "personal property or equipment" of the town "that has an electric or gasoline powered motor" to town employees 18 years of age or older who have been instructed on the equipment's "proper use, care and maintenance."
The new resolution was a topic of discussion a week later at the Knightstown Dept. of Parks and Recreation Board's April 9 meeting. It is likely to be a topic at tonight's town council meeting as well.
At their meeting last Wednesday, park board members told Bob Weber, the council's park board liaison, that they wanted further clarification on the resolution's applicability to park employees and park equipment. Weber told board members the council had passed the resolution - which took effect immediately and applies to "all departments" of the town, including the park department - to limit the town's liability for injuries sustained by persons operating town equipment.
While no formal vote had been taken on the issue, the park board had previously discussed having a 16-year old park employee or volunteers use the newly purchased mower to maintain park grounds, something Weber said had scared council members. If someone were to get hurt while mowing, Weber said the town would likely be the first party to get sued.
Park Board President Mac O'Connor questioned whether the town could interfere with the board's authority to manage and control Sunset Park. He also said he thought the issue of whether park employees are town employees and, therefore, covered by the council's resolution, needs to be clarified.
Weber asked Park Board Vice President Bruce Brown who writes his paycheck for his work as the park's pool manager. When Brown replied he was paid by the town's clerk-treasurer, Weber said he thought that made him and other park workers town employees.
While he told Weber he understood the council's concerns over liability, O'Connor said he thought common sense needs to be used. He pointed out that the park relies on its own employees and volunteers to do things that town employees aren't always available to do in a timely manner.
O'Connor also said thought there needs to be clarification of whether the new mower and other park equipment is park or town property. If the park alone has authority over these items, then the council's resolution would not apply and the park board would be free to decide who will operate the mower and other park equipment.
Mark Moss, who heads up the local Babe Ruth baseball league, asked whether he would be able to continue using the park's old mower to drag the ball diamond's infield. Brown said if the new resolution applies to the park, Moss would have to use his own equipment to do this.
Brown noted that the council's resolution, as it's now written, also prohibits the town's practice of using county work release prisoners from running a vacuum sweeper at town hall. Weber said the council was aware of that unintended consequence and that the resolution might be amended.
O'Connor plans to address these issues at tonight's town council meeting, which is open to the public and starts at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at Knightstown Town Hall, 26 S. Washington St. The next park board meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 14, in the Sunset Park shelter house.
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