Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, May 15, 2000

Wright Board discusses revised bleacher laws

By John Holler

One of the good aspects of a government like we have in the United States is when a law simply doesn't work effectively, it can be changed or rescinded.

Over the years, this self-correcting policy has allowed several laws that were enacted with good intentions, but failed to be wiped off the books.

This was the discussion at the May 9 meeting of the Wright County Board, as the commissioners discussed a law revision that will end up saving the county, as well as local governments, thousands of dollars.

During the 1999 State Legislative session, a law was adopted requiring that all bleachers 30 inches tall or higher, which is almost all bleachers sold, be equipped with floorboards, guardrails and/or safety nets. The law was enacted as a response to a youngster dying after falling through the gaps of a bleacher.

However, it was later learned that the cost of modifying every bleacher in the state more than 30 inches high would be astronomical, and something many counties, cities and organizations simply could not afford.

After receiving considerable negative pressure, the Legislature has modified its policy, extending the height requirement for the changes needed from 30 inches to 55 inches, but there is still some confusion as to how the rule will apply - in the case of Wright County, at the fairgrounds in Howard Lake, where the original modifications were expected to cost $80,000 or more to complete.

"Someone is going to have to take current law as it stands and see what we have to do to comply," County Purchasing Agent Craig Hayes said. "As of right now, I'm not exactly sure what that requirement will be."

Commissioner Jack Russek said the new law will require the bleacher modifications, as he has understood them, to begin at bleachers higher than 55 inches from the ground - meaning that the entire bleacher won't need to have floorboards, just those portions that extend more than 55 inches from the ground.

It is expected that the new requirement will result in several thousand dollars saved at the fairgrounds alone, as well as sparing small groups and town bleachers that are 55 inches high or less - the standard six-row bleachers - from paying untold thousands in modifications.

As part of the change in the law, the state added a year on to the date of required compliance now set at Jan. 1, 2002. This will give local governments an opportunity to assess the costs of making the new changes and budget for them in the 2001 budget year. The board voted unanimously to refer the matter to the Building Committee to obtain cost figures and make a recommendation.


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