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Fearing lawsuits, Mount Wolf requires COVID-19 waivers for park events

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Groups or organizations that wish to host events at Mount Wolf Community Park must now sign waivers and indemnification agreements stating the borough is not responsible if an attendee contracts COVID-19 during the event.

Mount Wolf Community Park Thursday, August, 13, 2020. Mount Wolf Borough is requiring that all groups that reserve the pavilion or other area at the park sign an indemnification waiver in the event anyone contracts COVID-19 while attending. Bill Kalina photo

The Mount Wolf Borough Council voted unanimously in favor of the measure  recently after discussing whether to allow the Northeastern Community Senior Center to host weekly events at the park pavilion.

Councilperson Eddie Kuntz said community groups should be able to hold events as long as the borough can avoid liability.

"Everyone’s cooped up," he said. "The whole reason for them to utilize the park is because it’s outside."

Solicitor Devon Myers said the COVID-19 lawsuits have already started, although she's mostly seen employees suing their employers for neglecting to protect them from exposure to the virus.

Mount Wolf Community Park Thursday, August, 13, 2020. Mount Wolf Borough is requiring that all groups that reserve the pavilion or other area at the park sign an indemnification waiver in the event anyone contracts COVID-19 while attending. Bill Kalina photo

But just because there hasn't yet been a lawsuit filed against a municipality doesn't mean it can't happen, she said.

Each person participating in an event at the park will need to sign a liability waiver, Myers said, stating they will not hold the borough responsible if they contract COVID-19.

In the event someone were to sue the borough, Myers said, the indemnification agreement would mean the group holding the event would have to pay for any legal costs incurred by the borough.

Councilperson Anna Wagner said the senior center director canceled all previously scheduled events and that Gov. Tom Wolf's recent rule prohibiting indoor gatherings of more than 25 people would have made it impossible to hold events with the seniors anyway.

Wagner said the borough should "definitely get it signed," referring to the indemnification agreement with the senior center.

COVID-19 safety reminders are posted around Mount Wolf Community Park Thursday, August, 13, 2020. Mount Wolf Borough is requiring that all groups that reserve the pavilion or other area at the park sign an indemnification waiver in the event anyone contracts COVID-19 while attending. Bill Kalina photo

"The reason they’re not meeting down at the center is because the seniors do not stay separated, at all," she said. "It’s huggy-huggy and close, as close as they can get."

The council also discussed the longstanding verbal agreement with Mount Wolf Elementary School to allow the students to use the playground at the park. 

Council members agreed the borough should ask Northeastern School District to sign an indemnification agreement for the elementary school's use of the park.

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