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Sports participants must sign new forms

March 20, 1998|By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Sports participants must sign new forms

The thousands of people who participate in sports leagues that use Washington County ballfields now have to sign a form saying they won't sue the county if they get hurt.

Previously, the head of the sports league would sign an application form that included a waiver, but now each individual player or their parent must sign the two-page form, County Attorney Richard Douglas said Friday.

It's a paperwork burden that has some sports league officials seething.

"It's nearly outrageous," said Jim Klein, YMCA youth director.

Klein said the YMCA soccer league is scrambling to get the more than 300 waivers back from parents before the season starts.

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"Coordinating this effort has been a tremendous headache. I think it's unfortunate that the biggest burden is going to be on the volunteers," he said.

Douglas said a claim made against the county after an injury to an athlete last year prompted the waiver form.

"It's an effort to not increase the exposure of the county and the taxpayers to large liability lawsuits. It keeps the insurance rates down," Douglas said.

Lori Taylor, the Washington County Agricultural Education Center coordinator, is collecting the forms for the county.

She estimated that at least 5,000 people will have to sign a form in about 15 leagues, including baseball, soccer, softball and football.

County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers criticized the forms and said a lot of people are annoyed by them. "It's bureaucracy at its worst," he said.

The individual waivers were not approved by the commissioners.

Commissioner John S. Shank questioned why the forms weren't brought before the commissioners for approval since they are a change in policy.

Douglas said the forms were consistent with existing policy set by the commissioners and didn't need their approval.

The individual waiver forms are in addition to a requirement that sports leagues purchase $1 million of liability insurance.

Tim Leather, a player in the Industrial Morning Softball League, criticized the waivers and the insurance requirement. Leather said the insurance would cost the league $600, and that the eight-team league already pays $400 for use of the fields. He questioned why leagues have to purchase insurance when the county already has liability insurance.

Bowers questioned why someone in a sports league would have to sign a waiver when someone at a tractor-pull contest or other events at the Ag Center wouldn't.

Taylor said outside groups using the Ag Center are required to have the $1 million insurance but aren't currently required to sign individual waivers.

Douglas said waivers also may be instituted for Ag Center events.

Frederick County, Md., also is trying to institute individual waivers this year, said Parks Superintendent Earl Eyler.

Eyler said the policy has prompted a lot of complaints from parents.

Implementation has been so difficult that Eyler said he's willing to accept blanket waiver statements signed by league presidents if individual waivers prove too cumbersome.

Eyler said he'll reconsider the waiver form this year and do more research on what other counties do.

The Washington County Board of Education does not require individual waivers for use of its fields, said Dennis McGee, director of facilities management.

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