Storm Leaves County Facing $250K In Park Damage

SNOW HILL — Due to stringent Little League regulations, the loss of one lighting pole in a storm earlier this month at John Walter Smith Park means no more Little League night games can be played at the location until the entire lighting system is replaced, a cost of about $250,000.

For the time being, the Worcester County Commission has decided to hold off on the replacement, instead suggesting that Little League games be held during the day for the time being.

“On Thursday, March 7, 2013, the wooden pole that housed 10 lights on the right side of the field, snapped in half during a nor’easter storm …,” Recreation and Parks Director Paige Hurley reported to the commission. “Without this bank of lights, the field does not meet the lighting standards that had been grandfathered in by Little League Baseball International.”

There are a total of eight lighting poles surrounding the field. With the loss of one of the banks, there isn’t sufficient light for Little League night games. However, just replacing the damaged pole isn’t allowed under league rules, noted Recreation Superintendent Lisa Gebhardt.

“According to Little League you cannot replace one pole. You’d have to replace the entire system because it’s no longer grandfathered in,” she said.

Specifically, according to league standards “any upgrade or addition of lighting equipment to existing systems after July 1, 1992, must be done so that the systems will be in complete compliance with current standards.” This means that to replace one lighting pole every pole on the field must be upgraded as well.

Commissioner Virgil Shockley told Hurley that the requirement seems bizarre as it prevents the county from doing minor improvements by demanding a major one or none at all.

“This is weird, wild,” said Shockley. “One pole goes down and you end up taking 10 [sic] more down with it.”
The cost of replacing all eight lighting installations on the field would be in the $240,000 to $250,000 range, according to Hurley. Instead of going through the cost and effort of replacement, Hurley’s recommendation was that ball games be scheduled earlier during the day this summer to avoid the lighting issue entirely.

He also suggested that the remaining seven wooden poles be removed since lighting standards can’t be met with the current setup and there is some concern over their condition. The commissioners unanimously agreed to remove the existing system at a cost of $2,180.

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