Safety Concerns At County Park Investigated

Safety Concerns At County Park Investigated
The field lights at Newtown Park off Route 113 are currently being evaluated by Worcester County officials. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

SNOW HILL – County officials continue to investigate concerns regarding lighting at Newtown Park in Pocomoke.

Last month, Worcester County Commissioner Chip Bertino advised county staff he’d received an anonymous complaint regarding improper installation of the field lights at Newtown Park. Harold Higgins, the county’s chief administrative officer, said officials were still reviewing the situation this week.

“I think it’s a community issue that has to be addressed carefully,” Higgins said. “The bottom line is we don’t want Little Leaguers subjected to some risk.”

The Pocomoke Little League received state funding last year to install lights on the baseball fields at Newtown Park. Though the installation occurred last spring, Bertino said he was contacted recently regarding a possible safety issue with the lights’ wiring, which he was advised wasn’t in the ground deep enough. As a result, Higgins has been looking into the situation and provided the commissioners with an update last week upon Bertino’s request.

“We have had a couple spots dug,” Higgins said, adding that the depth of the wiring in those locations was not the required 24 inches.

Higgins told the board he was making arrangements with Pocomoke Little League President Travis Cowger to have the issue addressed. He added that the Town of Pocomoke had handled the permitting process for the lights. Though Newtown Park is a county park, it is within the city limits of Pocomoke.

“Are we in any way liable for this?” Bertino asked.

Higgins said he didn’t think so.

“But you know the old saying deep pockets…,” he said. “If it’s not done to an appropriate standard they’ll look to everybody if some sort of damage is done.”

When contacted after the meeting, Cowger said he wasn’t aware of an issue with the lights.

“The installs were done by licensed contractors,” he said, adding that the installation had been done a year ago.

In an interview this week, Higgins confirmed that county officials believed the cabling from the electric box to the lights was not done to the proper standards. He said they’d spoken to Pocomoke officials as well as Cowger, who was in the process of locating the permits from when the installation was done.

“Typically, the laying-in of the cable would in itself require a separate signoff,” Higgins said. “But based on what’s been presented to me Travis has indicated he thinks he has that document.”

Higgins said that even if the proper documentation was presented, there still appeared to be an issue with the depth of the wiring. He added, however, that there was time to get the situation addressed before the Little League season began.

“The fortunate part of this process is the field’s not being used,” Higgins said. “It gives us some time.”

Bertino said he just wanted to understand how the wiring came to be installed incorrectly and get the problem fixed.

“My biggest concern is that it’s a safety issue,” he said. “The county is responsible for that park and we have a responsibility to make sure the people using the park aren’t in harm’s way.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.