By LISA MACNEIL
Hernando Sun Reporter
Local residents visiting Tom Varn park recently were unhappy to see signs posted and the gates to the softball fields closed and secured with zip-ties. The signs state, “All organized sports groups and/or independent trainers must provide certificates of insurance to the City of Brooksville and schedule use of these fields by visiting the Parks and Recreation department at 99 Jerome Brown Place, Monday - Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.”
Brooksville City Manager Mark Kutney told The Hernando Sun that the placement of the signs and locking of the gates was prompted by scheduling issues for the field. Professional coaches and other personnel leading organized teams must be properly insured as governed by their organizations.
Kutney reported that he first became aware of the issue when he was contacted by the Hernando Youth League (HYL), when they found the field in use during their scheduled time.
Anthony Laviano, current director of the HYL said the insurance requirement is not arbitrary nor new. “It comes down to basic liability, if you’re organized and you’re accepting money for services.” Laviano went on to say about the scheduling of the field, “It’s been going on for so long … if no one was there, people would just utilize the fields. And that’s okay.”
However, with the increasing number of people using the field, Laviano understands how tighter scheduling can prevent conflict, and keep track of the professional organizations that use them.
Laviano said, “I am one-hundred percent in favor of kids getting together and playing ball. If you’re having a birthday party at the pavilion (and want to have a ball game), you still have to reserve the pavilion.”
Several citizens concerned by this new development sought answers from the Brooksville City Council at the July 15, 2019 regular meeting.
Kutney explained, “I’ve heard a lot of comments … that this is a liability issue. It is not a liability issue.
"Back in April, we had a number of requests, and questions from the HYL about other groups getting the field without deserving it. There were questions about providing insurance, but basically there were issues regarding coordination (of scheduled times).”
According to Kutney, there have been social media posts about meetings at the field without proper reservations, and problems arising when staff attempted to service a field for an upcoming event, and players refused to vacate. The zip-ties have been in place most recently to allow servicing of the fields, and also to prevent access when heavy rain is expected.
Some members of the council were unaware that there have been problems that led to these changes. The council agreed as a whole to meet with Kutney over the next two weeks, and officially list the topic on a future meeting agenda.