Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

September 4, 2013

Stray balls causing problem for neighbors

Effingham Park District

Tony Huffman

EFFINGHAM — Softballs being hit out of Hendelmeyer Park ball diamond are causing problems for a nearby apartment complex.

During softball games at the far east ball field in Hendelmeyer Park, home run balls are regularly hitting cars parked at Colonnade Apartments and occasionally the building itself. This has led various tenants to express concern that the park district needs to figure out a way to the stop the issue from continuing, said Park District Director Jeff Althoff.

     According to Dave Koester, whose daughter and grandchildren live at Colonnade, the park district isn't doing enough to remedy the situation.

     “There is a net in right field but not in left,” said Dave Koester, noting the lack of a net on that side leaves the apartment complex vulnerable to far-reaching balls.

Althoff informed Park District Board members Wednesday that the net in right field, which shields balls from hitting townhouses, was donated by members of the softball league that play in Hendelmeyer Park. Althoff added balls are still being hit over the top of the net into the back yard beyond right field.

“We cannot control where people hit the ball,” said Althoff.

Koester believes the $10,000 that it would cost to install a net is a small price to pay if it saves one person from being hit. However, nobody up to this point has been hit, said Althoff.

“I want to know what the park district is going to do if someone is hit and killed by a ball,” Koester said before Wednesday's meeting.

Althoff said he isn't trying to dismiss Koester's concerns about the issue, but added there is no way to keep softballs from being hit out of the park. Althoff noted that the fields were built before any residential structures were built. Also, he said he has been informed by the park district's insurance carrier that the district isn't liable for balls being hit out of the park.

“I'd put a net up tomorrow if I thought it would stop the problem, but it won't,” said Althoff. “There is no way we can protect everyone from being hit by a softball around Hendelmeyer Park.”

Althoff went on to say that ball players have been using softer balls, but admitted they are still able to hit them well out of the park.

The board instructed Althoff Wednesday to reach out to the men's league, which rents the field, to see if they would want to donate funds for another net. Also, the board directed Althoff to contact owners of Colonnade Apartments. Althoff said he would, adding he has already reached out to Colonnade management for financial assistance with the net but hasn't heard back from them.

According to Althoff, the park district cannot afford to put up a $10,000 net that may or may not stop balls from landing in Colonnade parking lot. For the time being, Althoff advises Colonnade residents to park in different parts of the parking lot during games.

In other news, the board learned that Kluthe Memorial Swimming Pool earned $18,084.25 less in revenue this year than last.

     “It was a rough year for the pool,” said Althoff.

Because of unseasonably low temperatures, attendance at the pool this year was at 17,850 compared to 23,107 last year.

Althoff said they had to send home staff on several occasions because of bad weather and low attendance, which he said was regretful for individuals but did save the park district on some of its labor costs.

“The weather kept people away from the pool,” said Althoff.

After closed session, the board voted to accept a $75,000 settlement for construction and engineer costs associated with the building and ensuing collapse of a grandstand at Paul Smith Field located at Community Park.

Wind knocked over the bleachers in December 2012, which led to litigation and an out-of-court settlement between the park district and two other parties, said Althoff.

The park district will recoup $50,000 from a bonding company representing RCM Unlimited Construction and $25,000 from an insurer for Walk's Engineering.

According to Althoff, an additional $16,000 was spent by the park district to do further construction work to the foundation of an unaffected area of the grandstand. This was done to insure the safety of those who may sit on the grandstand in the future. Construction on the project was completed last spring.