PALESTINE, Texas (KLTV) - The Palestine Athletic Complex was closed abruptly on Monday night by the town’s city council. On Thursday, a judge ordered the Anderson County Football League must be given access again to the field.
A court order was served on city manager that said the city had unlawfully denied the football league access to the complex after they had paid for the use of it. He ordered the city to allow the football league immediate access to (but not limited to) all gates, buildings, fields and parking lots.
McKinney said that his organization had just paid to use the field when the decision was made to close it without any notice.
“We’ve been practicing at the athletic complex for the past couple weeks,” said Carey McKinney, the president of the Anderson County Football League, “since August 31, and we had sign-ups for a few weeks before that.”
The judge said that there should have been a hearing on the matter.
The city council said that there is not money in the city’s budget to bring the complex into Americans With Disabilities Act compliance, so they felt the right thing to do was close it.
"At this point in time it’s for the level of expenses that the city has tied to it,” Leslie Cloer, the Palestine city manager said on Tuesday. “We realize the frustration and I’m very disappointed. It’s with heavy hearts our council members had to make this decision last night, but at this point in time, that’s the decision we have to make as a part of this pending litigation.”
Cloer confirms that she did get served on Thursday afternoon regarding the judge’s order that the league be allowed access to the complex. She says she has not had a chance to speak with the city’s legal counsel, so she could not yet comment when we spoke with her Thursday evening.
However, she did say that there has been a date and time set for the public hearing, and that will be announced on Friday.
McKinney says he and his group will do what they have to do "to stand up for our kids.”
“Public servants are here to serve the public, especially to stand up for those who can’t for themselves. We’re talking about a bunch of little kids wanting to have fun,” McKinney said. “All I’m asking for is until our lease is up on Nov. 2, and then they can take what action they need to. If they want to continue to litigate and cost the taxpayers money, our organization is prepared to take this as far as we need to take it. I’ve already talked to legal counsel about steps we can take. In the interest of everybody, let’s just let us finish our lease agreement.”
A person with a disability had sued the city so that they would take the steps needed to bring it into compliance. His lawyer says the man had made multiple attempts to work with the City to bring the Complex into compliance with the ADA prior to filing the present lawsuit.
The city council said that since so much money is going toward improving the city’s aging infrastructure, there is no money available to bring the complex into compliance as the lawsuit would require.