The Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to apply for a $1 million grant, which requires a 50% match from the city, which means the city will have to provide $500,000. BOMA approved on Dec. 1 a resolution to apply for a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Local Parks and Recreation Fund Grant in the amount of $1 million. The funds will be used for field light renovation at Fred Deadman and Dave King Parks.
One of the motivations for the renovation is replacing light poles, which were the reason for an electrocution incident that happened earlier this year. An electrocution accident at Babe Ruth field injured an 11-year-old girl in July.
“There was a short on the power line to this light pole; the Babe Ruth poles are the oldest metal poles in the park,” said Bonnie Gamble, director of Manchester Parks and Recreation.
The girl stood between the ballfield fence and the light pole.
“She felt an electrical current and could not move. Her parents also felt an electrical current in the act of trying to disengage her from the pole,” Gamble said in July. Coffee County Emergency Medical Services responded to the call, and the girl was transported to ICU at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Before voting on Dec. 1, Alderman Bill Nickels asked if “there’s a hold up on repairing the three light poles that had electrical problems that caused the accident, which involved the city in a lawsuit? Is there a way we can fix those three poles?”
Gamble said that there has been no move for an actual lawsuit to be filed at this point.
“There is one pole that cause the problem,” Gamble, adding there are three more poles that could potentially cause a similar problem.
Nickels asked if the city can go ahead and repair the poles that could create an issue in the future.
“I just want to make sure somebody is working on them,” Nickels said.
Gamble said the recreation center could do that.
Alderman Chris Elam, who’s been alderman for five years, asked why the issue with the light poles that caused the electrocution incident had never been brought up before the accident.
“I am kind of aggravated it was never brought up if it was a big safety issue,” Elam said.
Gamble said, “until the girl got shocked, I never thought that kind of situation could happen.
“I did not know that the wiring was that bad,” Gamble said. “(The incident) was the wakeup call.”
According to Nickels, “the timing (for the grant) is not perfect with questions about the pandemic.”
He said he supports the grant, “just not during the pandemic.”
He admitted the project of replacing all light poles is necessary, but cautioned about committing funds for the project. Nickels said that’s the reason he would vote against it; however, he added that the light poles that could cause electrocution issues must be replaces, with or without grant.
Alderman Ryan French said the city will have three years to pay for the $500,000 grant match and urged aldermen to support the resolution.
“We can look at the funding mechanisms later,” French said, adding the light renovation project is important for continuing to hold baseball tournaments in Manchester.
The resolution to apply for the grant was approved, with Nickels voting against it.