PVLL moves forward
Following months of discussion, little league group and Town of Saratoga come to agreement on use of baseball fields
November 27, 2019
While discussion became heated during the Nov. 19 meeting of the Saratoga Town Council over little league baseball and available fields, it appears that both the governing body and Platte Valley Little League (PVLL) may have a path forward.
The discussion of providing a place for PVLL first appeared before the council in March 2019, when the Town of Saratoga sent a letter to the Wood family (no relation) asking to use Wood’s Field for one year. While use of the field was allowed, it was the goal of the PVLL to begin using the former baseball fields south of the Saratoga Branch Library.
Most of those discussions took place during regular meetings of the Saratoga Recreation Commission, but have found their way into Saratoga Town Council meetings. In April 2019, PVLL member Ben Spaulding approached the council to request that the west baseball field be available for practice.
In September, Spaulding appeared before the council, as he expressed his frustrations with what he saw as lack of progress in rehabilitating the ball fields. At that time, Councilmember Steve Wilcoxson stated that the ball fields posed a liability issue for the Town of Saratoga. Wilcoxson had invited former Town of Saratoga Engineer Chuck Bartlett to inform both the council and the audience on previous struggles with prairie dogs and gophers.
During the Oct. 15 Saratoga Town Council meeting, the discussion of the ball fields appeared, again. At that time, Town of Saratoga legal counsel Tom Thompson informed the council that the current state of the ball fields posed a liability to the town.
Under Wyoming State Statute 1-39-106, it states that “A governmental entity is liable for damages resulting from bodily injury, wrongful death or property damage caused by the negligence of public employees while acting within the scope of their duties in the operation or maintenance of any building, recreation area or public park.”
At that time, the council unanimously agreed for Thompson to draft a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Town of Saratoga and PVLL for use of the fields. While the matter appeared to be settled, it rose again during the Nov. 19 council meeting as the MOU turned into a lease proposed by Thompson.
Spaulding, joined by several members of PVLL and community members who publicly voiced support and donations for the program, expressed his frustration with the proposed lease.
“One of the big things that we’re having issues with is, obviously, this process has taken over nine months now to get this up and going. We have sat here and discussed about where to play baseball, we’ve had discussions on developing an MOU for the town to provide water and mowing for the baseball fields up by the library,” said Spaulding. “Now, we are talking about a lease with the town, which kind of blows me away to be honest with you.”
Spaulding added that he had talked with other little league districts throughout Wyoming and that “not one little league district is in a lease with the town.” He also expressed concerns about the proposed lease going from year-to-year along with a clause allowing the Town of Saratoga to cancel the lease at any time.
As discussion continued, council members Jon Nelson and Bob Keel both publicly expressed their support for the program and of finding a way to allow PVLL to use the baseball fields.
“I think you’ve got a tremendous amount of community buy-in and people willing to put forth the financial and resources in terms of time to get the things built,” said Nelson. “If we need to look at it as the little league’s going to facilitate that property to be improved and then we’re going to allow them to use it … then we need to take on the responsibility for maintaining it, then let’s just do that.”
Keel’s suggestion went a step further, as he proposed that the MOU between the Town of Saratoga and PVLL last only as long as it took for the non-profit group to rehabilitate the field. Following that, the Town of Saratoga would take over regular maintenance of the property.
Keel put that suggestion into the form of a motion, which was seconded by Councilmember Judy Welton. The motion passed unanimously.
The next meeting of the Saratoga Town Council will be at 6 p.m. on Dec. 3 at Saratoga Town Hall.