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Spicer diving tower has too much rust and too much liability

WILLMAR -- It's not that the Kandiyohi County Commissioners don't know what it's like to be a kid and have fun, it's just that the popular diving tower that's been a landmark on Saulsbury Beach in Spicer for decades is too rusty, too corroded and too dangerous.

It's also too big of an insurance liability to put back in Green Lake this summer.

"It's not safe," said Kandiyohi County Administrator Larry Kleindl as he displayed photos of corroded metal cross-bars and springs.

"This dive tower is definitely in no condition to be put back," said Kleindl of the tower that was custom built in the 1960s and refurbished in the 1980s.

The ladder is twisted, some boards are broken and other boards are starting to rot, Kliendl told the commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

Once the county has knowledge that a poor piece of equipment could create injury and "we do nothing about it, it puts us at greater liability than normal," he said.

The commissioners re-affirmed their earlier decision not to install the tower this year at the county park's Saulsbury Beach in Spicer, despite a request by representatives from the city of Spicer to reconsider that action.

Spicer Mayor Denny Baker told the commissioners the city understands the safety and liability concerns, but said the water tower is "an icon" for the Spicer area and the county park.

"We hate to see it pulled out," said Baker.

"It was something great for the kids," said George Couleur, the county's former water safety deputy who provided some history on the diving tower and explained how the tower is installed on the edge of a 14-foot drop-off in Green Lake.

While there may be some danger with the tower, Couleur said "there's danger in everything."

Julie Nelson, of Spicer, told the commissioners her children "love that tower out there." She didn't think the tower looked "beyond repair" and suggested that a local welder be allowed to assess it and possibly fix it.

Doing that could also make the welder liable if anything happened, said Kleindl.

"We could make it usable, but probably not insurable," conceded Baker. "The unfortunate part is we're all liable."

Kleindl had searched for new diving towers only to discover that companies don't make them. New water parks don't install diving towers anymore because of liability issues, he said.

"We used to be able to have a lot more fun," said Commissioner Dennis Peterson, who recalled the day when there was a roller coaster ride that plunged into Green Lake back when he was a kid.

Baker asked the board to keep options open for a possible solution, if not for this summer than possibly next year. "We would like to see it come back," he said. "I'm not willing to give up at this point."

Considering that the county could be facing huge budget cuts, Kleindl said even if the county could repair the old tower or find a new on, there may not be money to pay for either option.

"The sad part is," he said, "the public will experience reduced services."

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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