Apparently our community’s kids have been playing soccer and flag football at an unsafe Sherman Soccer Complex since May 1, 2015.

On that date, Gateway’s engineering firm Tetra Tech sent an engineer to inspect the soccer fields’ floodlights with a boom lift.

What the engineer found up there was so hazardous that six days later (May 7) Tetra Tech wrote a report to the GSCDD and said that $13,340 needs to be spent to install additional fixtures to the lights to make sure they don’t fall off and kill someone, because the bolts holding the lights up now are so rusty.

Operations Manager Scott Connell was so alarmed by this that twelve days after Tetra Tech’s notification (on May 19, 2015) he wrote to the Board of Supervisors recommending the repairs.

At today’s (May 28) meeting of the Gateway Services District’s Board of Supervisors, the topic came up as part of the agenda.

The Supervisors were highly skeptical of the entire situation. And that’s being kind.

GSCDD Chairman William Guy asked Tetra Tech’s Danny Nelson, “From what I’m hearing and reading, these lights are potentially dangerous to folks who are playing soccer or are otherwise underneath. Is that correct?”

Nelson replied, “I … (pause) … based on the information I have available, I would tend to agree.”

“You would tend to agree,” Guy repeated back, then asking the others in the room, “Did you hear that?”

Supervisor Rod Senior, who actually was not in the room but rather was Skyping from Europe to be a part of the meeting, answered, “Yes.”

Said Guy: “Second question is, since you tend to agree, is the maybe not the politic thing but the smart thing to do is just close those fields until we can get those lights in a more hospitable manner?”

Responded Nelson, “I don’t know that I would go to that extreme. I don’t think the lights are going to – the lights are some feet away from the actual playing fields. I don’t know that I would be playing in the middle of a wind storm or a rain storm or anything, but I don’t think you’re in danger of the lights blowing away on to the fields and injuring anybody.”

“And your engineering firm has liability insurance?” quipped Guy, to which the room broke out in laughter.

Nelson said, “I’m not gonna put my seal on anything that says that. So if you wanna say the safe thing to do is the shut ’em down, I’ll agree with that but I think it may be a little bit extreme.”

It appeared the Supervisors were wondering if Tetra Tech wasn’t being completely forthright in regards to the urgency of the matter, and that they suspected it was at least partly an attempt to extract thousands of dollars from the GSCDD. Supervisor Gary Neubauer pointed out that it seemed odd that over $4,000 needed to be paid to oversee the repairs.

After-all, if Tetra Tech discovered on May 1 that the lights could fall on someone’s head at any moment, wouldn’t that engineer have sounded the alarm on that day rather than allowing his company to wait six days to write a recommendation to fix it? And Connell certainly wouldn’t have waited twelve more days before advising the Supervisors that the Sherman Soccer Complex was a death trap.

Despite Guy saying he wasn’t playing politics, it appeared that the Chairman did exactly that by ordering the three fields with floodlights closed until the lights can be repaired.

There are a total of five fields at the complex.

If Guy wasn’t playing politics, he was at least sending a message to Tetra Tech.

And that message was that if Tetra Tech is going to stand before the board and exaggerate a problem in order to make some extra money, Tetra Tech can at least see that their actions caused kids sports leagues to be thrown into disarray.

You see, the Gateway Flag Football program’s championship games are tomorrow. And now they can’t play all of the games on the better fields or at their scheduled times, because over half the fields are now closed.

The Gateway Soccer Association has play-offs this weekend as well. Some of their games will probably need to be rescheduled too. (UPDATE: We were advised there may not be any play-offs, but that there are try-outs and/or a soccer academy that will be affected)

Obviously, Tetra Tech will tell you that those lights are indeed unsafe and someone needs to put new bolts or fasteners on them, and that may be true.

For his part Guy will tell you that he was just putting safety first, and that also could have some truth to it.

But since the inspection took place four weeks ago and Tetra Tech was more concerned with generating a contract than saving people’s lives from falling floodlights – it seems more likely that instead of the kids playing games of soccer and flag football … it was the adults at the GSCDD and Tetra Tech who were the ones playing games today.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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