CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A bill moving through the West Virginia Legislature is intended to make it easier for communities to help residents lead healthy lifestyles.
Senate Bill 628, Creating Healthy Children and Healthy Communities Act, compels government entities and agencies at the local level to work together and investigate ways the community can encourage physical activity among residents, especially children. The Division of Highways and Bureau for Public Health also would be involved.
"After the public entities look at the possibilities, they will report back to the Legislature the feasibility of doing some of these things and how they'll be accomplished," said committee counsel Rita Pauley.
Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall, R-Putnam, pointed out many school buildings stand empty in the evenings and on weekends and would make good places for fitness classes and sports leagues. He worried about liability costs, however.
"It's one thing to say these buildings can be used, here's the cost, the liability, the staffing," he said. "It's a lot of cost here."
The bill does include consideration for things like liability and insurance costs. Those are two of the elements local government entities will be tasked with investigating. But Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said he doesn't feel comfortable with the liability provisions in the bill and thinks it's something the Legislature will be asked to reconsider in future sessions.
"I do note and worry when these buildings are not open frequently, the first answer is due to liability concerns," Stollings said. "We don't really deal with liability or limit liability in this. We look at it specifically. I think that's something we'll come back in one or two years and have to address. I really think if it wasn't for what seemingly out in the real world is a litigious society we live in, we wouldn't be meeting here. We'd be using these after hours."
Stollings suggested people using school buildings after hours sign a waiver, releasing the school or any other agency from responsibility for any injuries that could occur.
Sen. Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel, said he's aware of sports leagues for kids operating in his area that are housed in but not part of local schools.