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New law shuts down pool slides

News editor

Slides at swimming pools in Hillsboro and Marion have been shut down as administrators grapple with uncertainty created by a law that went into effect Saturday requiring professional inspections and permits to operate amusement rides.

Hillsboro’s slide was closed Saturday even though city administrator Larry Paine said he wasn’t aware of any injuries caused by the slide in 13 years of operation.

“Until we get it inspected, we’re going to be safe rather than put our pool patrons at risk and figure out what we need to do,” Paine said.

The slide at Marion Sports and Aquatic Center was closed Monday after consultations between city administrator Roger Holter and new Marion-Florence superintendent Aarom Homburg.

“We’re very comfortable that we should be able to operate the slide without worry or concern,” Holter said. “We just are seeking the best possible clarification and legal advice, and at the same time want to be sure our patrons are as safe as possible.”

Prompted by a Kansas City area water park accident last year that killed 10-year-old Caleb Schwab, son of State Rep. Scott Schwab, the wide-ranging law affects operators of both permanent and temporary amusement equipment.

A requirement for inspection of “water slides that are at least 15 feet in height and that use water to propel the patron through the ride” before use led to the precautionary closure of local slides.

However, it is unclear whether either slide actually falls within the scope of the law.

“We don’t even know where they’re measuring it from,” Holter said.

However, a bigger issue relates to the word “propel.” Holter and Paine said that both slides were lubricated with water but that gravity and not streams of water propelled riders.

League of Kansas Municipalities attorneys are working to clarify that whether the law actually applies, Holter said. Both cities will wait for additional legal and state guidance before taking steps to reopen the slides.

Barbara Hersch, communications director for Kansas Department of Labor, which administers the law, said permits were required Saturday but that the requirement would not be enforced until early August. Legal action by state or county attorneys for permit violations is not scheduled to begin until January, she said.

Paine expressed frustration that Hillsboro’s slide could be lumped in the same category as the 168-foot-tall Verruckt slide that Caleb Schwab died riding.

“They’re totally different kinds of things, and to say that that slide is like our slide and should operate under the same rules is stretching the point a little too far,” he said.

Businesses that rent and operate inflatable amusement equipment such as bouncy houses and obstacle courses also are covered by the law. Events from the county fair and Chingawassa Days to kids’ birthday parties could be affected.

Marion County Fair director Jena Taylor said five inflatable units were to be part of this year’s activities. The law requires that the owner provide proof of inspections, permits, and operator safety training.

“They’re coming out of Salina,” she said. “I did try to call, and they haven’t called me back.”

Peabody’s Fourth of July festival went ahead as planned with Wee Entertainment of Ford operating carnival rides Tuesday. It was not known as of press time if the company had obtained state permits for its equipment.

Last modified July 6, 2017

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