Boonville Council opts to end COVID-19 athletic waivers

Charles Dunlap
cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com
Boonville Daily News

Athletes participating in games or tournaments held at fields in Boonville city parks will no longer have to sign a COVID-19 liability waiver after the Boonville City Council voted to eliminate them Monday.

Two local baseball leagues were holding games games under requirements that players have their temperatures checked, sign a log for contract tracing in case of COVID-19 exposure and a waiver removing city liability in case of exposure.

In June, the council rolled back requirements to just the waiver as there were soccer, baseball and adult volleyball tournaments interested in using fields at city parks.

“When we put that in place, we were responding to requests for participating in youth sports leagues, and now fast forward to today when the public schools use our soccer field, they use ... essentially all of our parks,” Boonville City Manager Kate Fjell said. “As it stands today, they need to get a waiver and anyone that plays on that field needs to get a waiver.”

The waivers had absolved the city of liability for anyone who contracted COVID-19 while participating in an event in the parks. Council members who opposed eliminating the waivers said the move could open the city to claims it is responsible if someone becomes ill from the coronavirus.

The city received a request from the Boonville School District Athletic Director Chris Shikles about about ending waiver requirements.

“Either the city discontinues the waiver or [we provide] an opt-out waiver for school sports activities,” Fjell said.

The COVID-19 liability waivers are not a city ordinance, but was a city policy based on decisions by the council.

Council member Morris Carter wanted to know how the waivers were working. It was up to the league sports to keep them either as physical or digital copies, Fjell said.

“We kind of gave them the leeway to do it however they wanted,” she said.

Signs were placed at park fields about the waivers, but often were torn down, Carter said. This inclined him to make a motion to remove the waiver requirement for all organizations.

“If we have a flare-up, then we could reconsider it,” Carter said.

Not having a waiver requirement says to the community we are ignoring the COVID-19 exposure risk and do not really care, council member Susan Meadows said.

“I am not looking for a way to make this a burden. Is there some easier way we can exempt the city from responsibility should a person get COVID,” she said.

Council member Steve Young wondered if school activities should be exempt but not youth league sports, since student athletes already sign medical waivers with the districts.

“My understanding is they do not have any COVID-specific waivers,” Fjell said.

The medical waivers refer to treatment and council member Mike Stock equated contracting COVID-19 to a sports injury.

“Wouldn’t you have to specifically say, ’Should you contract COVID while playing sports.’ I mean could that be put into the [school districts’] waiver?” Meadows said.

Athletics are at a point where there likely will not be as many people in the stands as before, Stock said.

“I think this is really a school decision, a district decision,” he said.

There was a second motion to table the discussion until more information could be gathered. That motion was defeated 4-2.

“It seems to me we are doing a lot of things to mitigate risk, and I don’t know why [waivers] would not be one of them,” council member Albert Turner said.

If the city were to have the waivers, it would be on top of those already from the district and the Missouri State High School Activities Association, council member Whitney Venable said.

“We don’t need to regulate the regulations they already have,” he said.

Legal advice could give a clearer answer than just guessing at what school and MSHSAA rules are, Turner said.

The measure to eliminate waivers for city liability related to COVID-19 was passed 4-2, with Turner and Meadows voting against.

TAX LEVY SET

The council held a public hearing Aug. 3 relating to the city’s tax levy update. The council received no public feedback at that meeting and final approval of the new levy was made Monday.

Total assessed property values increased slightly from $102 million in 2019 to $104 million in 2020. Property taxes are a percentage of total values and are based on the type of property.

The city’s prior tax levy was .7005 per $100 assessed value. The proposed rate increases the levy to .7031 per $100. The city could have sought a maximum levy of .7350 per $100.

The updated levy was approved.

TRAFFIC FLOW CHANGE

The council held a first reading of a proposed ordinance to change traffic flow in a North/South alley between the 500 blocks of Locust Street and Spruce Street in the vicinity of Laura Speed Elliott Middle School and the Boonville School District office. The proposed ordinance would change the alley to one-way. A second reading and potential passage will be held at the council’s Sept. 8 meeting.