Below is a copy of a letter that Maria Moore, Board of Finance member and NewHartfordPlus editor and reporter, sent to the First Selectman and to the Chairman of the Recreation Commission with a copy to the Chairman of the Board of Finance with a request for the town to solicit and receive input from the town’s insurance company on the additional insurance liability that the town will be assuming by allowing the Football program to use a town park after sunset with the conditions approved by Rec. Less than a year ago the request of adults to walk through a town park after sunset was denied by the Rec Commission based on the insurance company’s input that the night-time use might require the town to make improvements to the town’s parks and could possibly result in a substantial increase in the town’s insurance costs. Maria asked that the letter be included in the “Correspondence” section of the Board of Selectmen meeting held this evening, June 26.
June 26, 2012
Dan Jerram, First Selectman, Board of Selectmen
John Maschi, Chairman, Recreation Commission
Ben Witte, Chairman, Board of Finance
As a member of the Board of Finance and as a town taxpayer, I am writing to express my concern at the additional insurance liability the town is being exposed to by the Recreation Commission allowing the use of a town park after sunset for an extended period of time. This is in direct conflict with the input of the town’s insurance company which the Rec Commission solicited in July, 2011. According to the July 2011 Rec minutes, the input the Rec Commission received was the following:
“…after consulting with the Town Hall, the Police Department, and the town’s Insurance Consultant the liability exposure to the town is too great. The Insurance Consultant emailed the First Selectman’s office after our conversation that it was their opinion that the town not agree to keep the park open after dark. This could possibly represent a change in hazard which could require a physical inspection by the insuring carrier. An inspection could reveal possible liability hazards which might include lighting of the path down to the lake as well as paving. The Consultant also stated that the town’s policy is on a 3 year premium rate freeze and a change in hazard could jeopardize this…”
Based on the input received, John Maschi, Chairman of the Rec Commission concluded:
“…if we do not follow through on potential recommendations of loss control, rate hikes could be a significant amount of money that would have an impact on all residents. John summed up the discussion that the Commission is charged with acting on behalf of all residents and after hearing input from Town officials and representatives, the Commission would be irresponsible to ignore their professional input. Park hours remain dawn to dusk.”
During that same meeting, First Selectman Dan Jerram is quoted as saying:
“Dan Jerram said that legal counsel is also not in favor of extending the park hours. He states that by doing this we stand to lose so much more.”
A group of adults had asked Rec for permission to walk through the park (Brodie Park North) after sunset and based on the input quoted above, that group’s request was denied.
However, beginning in August 2011 through mid-November 2011 the Football program, with its 130 participants, was holding practices at a town park (Brodie Park South) until at least 8 p.m. on an uneven field with rocks sticking out through the surface. The group’s 50-75 cars overwhelmed the 12-car parking lot at that park and created a dangerous traffic and parking situation during the 3 /2 months it was there.
During the 2011 Football season, the Rec Commission claimed that they had asked Football to move to another, more appropriate location but that the Football program had refused to move and that the Rec Commission had not received the necessary support from the town’s officials to enforce their decision to have Football move. I doubt whether the Rec Commission’s inability to enforce its park rules would have been a defense had the town been sued; fortunately, no incidents resulted in a lawsuit [against the town].
For the 2012 Football season, however, the Rec Commission has formally approved the Football practices at the same town park (Brodie Park South). The 130-150 participants, all under the age of 14, are being allowed to practice from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the same unimproved space. After sunset, they are being allowed to use private lights powered by their own generators until 7:45 p.m., with the field needing to be cleared by 8 p.m.
Sunset in Connecticut during the coming Football season (week beginning August 5 through week beginning November 11) is as follows:
- Week of August 5: sunset is at 8:05 p.m.
- Week of August 19: sunset is at 7:45 p.m.
- Week of September 2: sunset is at 7:25 p.m.
- Week of September 16: sunset is at 7:01 p.m.
- Week of September 30: sunset is at 6:33 p.m.
- Week of October 14: sunset is at 6:10 p.m.
- Week of October 28: sunset is at 5:46 p.m.
- Week of November 11: sunset is at 4:35 p.m. (daylight savings ended)
By their second week of practice, the Football program’s 130-150 participants will already be in a town park after sunset and will be using their private lights to conduct practices. As part of this use, there will be 75+ cars regularly congregating at a site with 12 approved parking places, with the Recreation Commission’s approval to park inside the park on the grass and outside the park on an unlit country road with parents charged to monitor the children and adults moving to and from their vehicles and on the field.
These park users won’t be there to walk in the park; they will be watching young children practicing Football, a very dangerous activity, taking place after sunset in our town park.
The insurance liability that taxpayers are being asked to assume to allow the Football program to hold practices in a town park after dark is beyond anything that we have ever assumed for any other recreational group. This is an excessive risk and one we should not be asked to assume since Football practices can be scheduled at other town-owned properties with the necessary infrastructure already in place to support the needs of the program and with practices ending before sunset, as other active sports programs in town.
Before Football practices begin, I ask that the First Selectman and the Rec Commission solicit and receive our insurance company’s input on Football’s use of our town park after sunset as approved by Rec. The input must be in writing since the additional liability may result in an increase in our insurance costs, something we all want to avoid.
Town Hill Road
Note: The times of sunset in Connecticut are from the Hunting and Trapping Field Guide section of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website.
See also: The June 22 NewHartfordPlus article examining the uneven application of the town’s park rules by the Recreation Commission.