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Largo ready to ban frolicking in fountain

Before you head to Largo Central Park, there are a few things you may need to remember. If you bring a dog, bring a leash and pooper scooper. And whatever you do, do not play in the water.

The City Commission agreed at a work session Tuesday to prohibit children from playing in the fountains at Largo Central Park. Dogs must wear a leash, and if they relieve themselves, the owners must clean up the mess.

The commission has yet to take formal action on the proposals.

The fountains were turned off June 22 after the mayor and commissioners became concerned that the city would be liable if someone was injured. And what if someone slipped on dog waste, they wondered.

"Could this city hold up under a $5-million lawsuit? A $1-million lawsuit?" Mayor Thomas Feaster said. "We have to protect the interests of 70,000 people."

But it comes at the expense of the children, Vice Mayor Judy Dean said.

"We built the park for the children, and then we've got all these restrictions," Dean said. "Water is very attractive to kids. That's the reason the fountains were built that way." The fountains are designed to draw people and even circulate drinking water.

The city would turn the fountains back on after signs are posted prohibiting play in the fountain. Commissioners said they wanted police to warn first-time offenders. But frolic in the fountain a second time, and some commissioners were even talking about a trip to jail and a police phone call to the young offender's parents.

"I feel very strongly that we need enforcement," said Commissioner Jim Miles. "If we pick them up and take them to the hoosegow, that would stop it."

The measures could be just the beginning of many more restrictions at the park.

"We've never had a park like this before," Feaster said. "There will be many more things to come up."

Removing the water faucet from the children's playground may be next. Commissioners Miles and Marty Shelby already have received phone calls from parents about older children throwing mud on smaller children in the playground.

Feaster also wants to make sure no one rides in-line skates or skateboards on the park's tiles.

"Maybe we should put a glass dome over it and call it a biosphere and charge people admission to see what a park looks like," Shelby said.

Largo parks director Cathy Santa said Lowry Park Zoo and the new Florida Aquarium in Tampa allow children to cool off in their fountains.

"Maybe they have deeper pockets than we do," Feaster said. "That's fine if they want to do that. But not us. There's a pool only eight blocks away."