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City Council likely to make decision on skatepark in October

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Posted: Tuesday, September 28, 2004 10:00 pm

Mayor Larry Hansen and Vice Mayor John Beckman are ready to open the city's skatepark as a skate-at-your-own-risk venue.

But at Tuesday morning's study session, Councilman Keith Land recommended closing the park for good, selling off the equipment and reopening the pad for a different use, perhaps as a new basketball court.

The issue of what to do with the $500,000 skatepark will likely come back for a council vote in late October, Parks and Recreation Director Tony Goehring said.

"There isn't anyone in this room that wants that open more than the people that have been working on it," he said. "We feel there's an asset, a half-million-dollar asset, sitting out there we haven't been able to offer our community. It's like a house of cards, and they're just not falling into place right now."

The park, which originally opened in June 2002 at Kofu Park on Ham Lane, has been closed for months after the City Council decided to let the skatepark's operators go. Because the city must carry liability insurance to operate a skate-at-your-own risk park, it has yet to re-open.

"We're at a crossroads, and we will have to make some decisions in the near future," Interim City Manager Janet Keeter told council members at the start of Tuesday's meeting.

Last week, she met with Goehring, Recreation Supervisor Michael Reese and Kirk Evans, the city's risk manager, to discuss options for the skatepark.

Officials planned to reopen the park June 1, but had trouble finding adequate insurance coverage. That's still the case, Evans said.

Other cities are assuming their own liability, he said.

Galt, for example, has a skate-at-your-own-risk park, but the deductible for Galt's liability insurance is only $25,000 because it is a smaller city, Evans said. Stockton's deductible is $1 million.

"It's just amazing to me that there are so many skateparks that are skate-at-your-own-risk, and we just can't come up with a solution to our insurance," Hansen said. "We can what-if this to death. The city faces liability everyday in our sidewalks, traffic lights and accidents. I tend to agree with the vice mayor. We ought to just assume the risk, open it up and try to find some secondary insurance, if possible."

Goehring, who said he gets two to three calls a week from people wondering what's going on with the skatepark, outlined five options for council Tuesday:

• Reopening the park with city assuming 100 percent of the risk below $500,000.

• Reopening it with the city assuming complete risk until an appropriate policy can put in place, or secondary insurance purchased to pick up the half-million deductible.

• Closing it, dismantling the apparatus and selling it off, and converting the property for another sporting use.

• Finding a new operator. The council voted last spring to cancel its agreement with operator Spohn Ranch which also carried the liability insurance.

• Doing nothing.

Meanwhile, the city has delayed smoothing out corners and adding silicone to the ramps to reduce noise until the park reopens.

If that happens, Lodi could hire a skateguard to check that everyone is using appropriate safety equipment. Users may also be required to sign a waiver.

However it's done, Beckman feels the park should be opened as soon as possible.

"If I had known it was going to sit there dormant all summer, I would have asked for other options (when we approved ending relations with the operator)."

Contact reporter Jennifer Pearson Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com.

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