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Fear of lawsuits shuts off new fountains in Largo

Although some parents see it as kids' play, the city considers it playing with danger.

The new fountains at Largo Central Park quickly become a playground for children until the city shut off the water Thursday, saying it was a liability.

"The fountains are for aesthetics," Mayor Thomas Feaster said. "It wasn't built for kids to run around and play in.

"It's really a shame (to cut the water off) and I hate to have restrictions, but we represent all the citizens of Largo. We can't extend our liability out that far. We don't want anybody to get hurt."

The city, however, did anticipate some kids playing in the fountains.

"It initially was designed with potable water with children in mind because they do interact with them," Recreation and Parks Director Cathy Santa said.

But Feaster is surprised by the attention the fountains have drawn.

"The parents were out there. The kids had their towels out there," Feaster said. "Then what really got me was the kids romping through there and sitting on the water spurting up. It just scared me to death."

Maria Valosin, whose 7-year-old son Shawn played in the fountain recently, understands the city's concern.

"I can't blame the city if they are worried about (getting sued)," Valosin said. "They could slip and fall. It is concrete and they could get hurt."

Feaster said his office received calls questioning the quality of the water. Although the water in the pond is recycled, Santa said the fountain water is safe.

The fountains will remain off until a decision is made by the City Commission. It is to be discussed in Tuesday night's commission meeting.

Among the ideas are erecting a decorative fence and implanting a motion detector to shut off the water automatically, Santa said.

"We've got to see if there is something visually acceptable we can do," Feaster said.

In the meantime, Feaster suggests children go to the city pools.