Third party to be consulted over tot lot

Forum to help decide course of action at lake

September 13, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,Sun reporter

Owen Brown Village officials are seeking the assistance of a third party to help organize a public forum to discuss what should be done with the Lake Elkhorn tot lot, a village official said.

Neil Dorsey, chairman of the Owen Brown Village Board, said the panel will meet with members of Howard Community College's Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center next month.

"We wanted a third party to facilitate the meeting," said Dorsey, who has not selected a date for the forum. "This takes away concern people may have that if I was running it or somebody else on the board was running it, it would be biased or directional, and we don't want that. We want to be as neutral as possible."

On Sept. 2, 2005, a 23-month-old boy, who was in the custody of a licensed day care provider, wandered from the Lake Elkhorn tot lot and drowned in the lake. Since then, the community has been divided over what should be done with the playground. Some options include putting a fence or barrier around the structure, leaving it as is, or removing the playground. Columbia Association, the homeowners association of Columbia, owns and maintains the playground. After months of discussion, the association's board of directors decided to leave the structure as it is.

In July, Owen Brown village set up a public display of safety options designed by Columbia Association staff members to get community feedback. Dorsey will take that feedback, as well as opinions expressed at the public forum, and present recommendations to the association board of directors.

Dorsey expects the forum to be held "at the end of October or the beginning of November."

Charles Tracy, director of HCC's Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center, said it is fairly common for the organization to be contacted by neighborhood associations to solve a problem.

"We try to help them craft the issue for themselves and facilitate a dialogue between the parties, and this sounds like the Owen Brown board and the community they serve. They will come up with their own resolution to what the dispute seems to be," Tracy said.

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