KIMBALL, Tenn. - The Kimball Board of Mayor and Aldermen has voted unanimously to close the current entrance to Kimball Park starting Aug. 1 in favor of an entrance recently built off Lofty Drive.
Officials said the current entrance, which crosses a railroad, never has been approved for public use, and they've taken a risk in allowing it for the past several years.
The board preferred to allow both entrances, but Kimball Attorney Billy Gouger said it is risky to keep the current access open.
"You've got to balance that risk," he said. "Is it worth the risk to continue using [the current entrance], or is it better to close it and make visitors go through the other crossing?"
Alderman Mark Payne said he's uneasy leaving the current entrance open.
"My only concern is that if we don't close it, and we do have an alternate access, we're going to be left wide open [to liability issues]," he said. "There's no winning in that."
Gouger said that would be the biggest risk.
"You don't necessarily incur liability simply because you own the property. You have to go beyond that," he said. "The town has to be negligent in some way."
Kimball could be judged negligent, Gouger said, because the board knows the current entrance is not a public crossing, but it allows the public to use it.
"That could open the door for someone to come in and claim that the town was liable," he said.
Mayor David Jackson said engineers estimated a cost of $150,000 years ago to convert the "farm crossing" entrance into a public railroad crossing.
"We've been told by the state that [the entrance] would have to be upgraded, and we've been told what we'd have to do," he said. "It's probably much more than $150,000 now. The way I look at it is if we don't close it off, we wasted $50,000 building a new road for a new entrance."
A walk-through gate will remain at the current entrance, Jackson said, but cars will have to enter the park at the new entrance.
"We've been lucky to this point," he said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.