Political Grandstand? About Time

March 07, 1995

Transferring $180,000 from the Carroll County education department's land acquisition fund to repair the 5,000-seat grandstand at Westminster High School makes eminent sense. The sooner this structure is repaired, the better.

While school system administrators claim the 20-year-old grandstands were never labeled "unsafe" and prefer to say they were "out of service," their semantics won't wash. The reality is that the majority of seats in the school's stadium are currently unusable and quite dangerous.

The school system was first alerted to the severity of the problem by a Kentucky engineering firm. After examining the grandstands at all the county high schools to see that they complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the company refused to write specifications for the Westminster stands.

Later, a safety specialist working for the school system's insurer confirmed the structure had major problems. Wooden floor boards had rotted. Also, potentially dangerous open spaces were created by a lack of kick plates between the seats and floor boards.

The school system has known of this problem for some time. Several years ago, a small child rolled through one of those holes, fell six feet and suffered minor injuries. Since that incident, Vernon Smith, the director of support services, has asked for money to correct the deficiency. Each year, the county commissioners denied his request.

The unsafe stands, which are on the home side of Westminster High's field, will be closed for the spring sports season. The visitors stands are usable, and portable stands will be used for the home team supporters. School officials say the reduced number of seats will be adequate for the spring, but those seats will be needed come football season.

Delaying these repairs makes no sense. The seats are needed this coming football season. Postponing the work will not save the county money, either. Aluminum prices have risen by half in the past year and could climb higher.

Considering the potential liability of failing to address the unsafe grandstands, the school system administration and the commissioners must make every effort to get these repairs completed as quickly as possible.

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