By Monroe Roark
The Henry County Board of
Commissioners called a special meeting yesterday – without the
board’s chairman – and approved an amendment in the agreement with
the sponsor of tomorrow’s holiday event at Nash Farm Park.
The move to lower the Henry
County Rodeo Association’s comprehensive general liability insurance
requirement was opposed by BOC chairman Tommy Smith, who told the
Times Monday morning by phone that he did not call the meeting.
County ordinance allows four
commissioners to jointly call a special meeting without the
chairman’s involvement, according to Smith, who had cancelled the
board’s July 2 regular meeting and is out of town on vacation all
District 4 Commissioner Reid
Bowman, the board’s vice chairman for 2013, presided over the
meeting and began by pointing out that the holiday event at Nash
Farm Park is not sponsored by the county.
“There is no county money
involved in this event,” said Bowman. “The county is leasing the
property to a private sponsor. Any public safety employees or other
county employees who may be working at this event are being paid by
the private sponsor.”
The issue in question was a
paragraph in the contract approved June 18 that requires the Henry
County Rodeo Association to have $4 million in comprehensive general
liability insurance to protect against bodily injury and property
damage. That is the amount in force for any county-sponsored event
held at one of its parks or facilities, according to Smith.
The chairman stressed Monday
that he was opposed to any change in the agreement because of the
possible liability from three major components of the event:
fireworks, inflatables for use by children, and the sale of alcohol
(the county legalized the sale of alcohol for private events at
county parks within the past year).
Smith stated that if
something catastrophic were to occur, the county ultimately would be
on the hook financially. He said that he was looking out for the
taxpayers first and foremost.
“The board is catering to
small interest groups instead of the county taxpayers,” said Smith.
The motion approved
yesterday, made by District 2 Commissioner Brian Preston, requires a
$2 million insurance policy to be in place on behalf of the Rodeo
Association, as well as $2 million each for the fireworks vendor,
the alcohol vendor and the inflatables vendor. The motion passed 4-0
with Bowman not voting.
Jay Mercer of Strawn
Insurance, the agent representing the Rodeo Association, told the
board that doubling his client’s insurance to $4 million could be
considerably more expensive than just a factor of two and would be
difficult for small vendors at public events.
“It could be six or seven times
what a $1 million policy would cost,” said Mercer. “If this [$4
million] remains the minimum, all nonprofits with events on county
property will see huge expenses that could keep such events from
The other item on yesterday’s agenda concerned
the upcoming SPLOST referendum. Bowman stated that since the July 16
regular board meeting would likely contain more than 20 items, it
was felt that a special called meeting was the best course of action
for addressing the project list recently submitted by the SPLOST
committee. That meeting was scheduled for Thursday, July 11, at 6:30