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Phillipsburg Council considers expanding background checks for volunteer coaches

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Jun 11 2013 10:26:49 PM CDT
Phillipsburg Council 6-11-2013
PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. -

The volunteer coaching staffs supervising town-sponsored recreational programs in Phillipsburg will likely be required to submit to criminal background checks.

Town Council lavished praise at a workshop meeting Tuesday night on an amended version of Phillipsburg's policy on background checks put together by town attorney Richard Wenner. The ordinance, which requires background checks for coaches, assistant coaches and umpires, will be voted on at council's June 18 meeting.

Mayor Harry Wyant Jr. said the ordinance covering people who are 18 or older would "protect children … against contact with individuals who should not be in contact with children."

Council vice president Todd Tersigni called Wenner's draft "well written" and said it should be approved "as is," while council president Bernie Fey Jr. said the proposed ordinance would help assure parents that when they drop off their children at recreational programs, "they'll know they're in good hands."

The proposed ordinance would also require checks for volunteers at town-sponsored programs for the elderly or infirm.

Everyone covered by the ordinance must agree to be fingerprinted. The ordinance allows the town administrator and police chief to exchange that data with and receive criminal histories from state and federal bureaus of investigation.

The head of each volunteer youth organization must submit a list of people expected to be involved in the town-sponsored activity at least 30 days before the activity begins, or risk losing the use of equipment, fields and facilities, the proposed ordinance says.

Anyone disqualified because of the background check will have 30 days to ask for a review, according to the ordinance.

Council is also considering an ordinance extending a code of conduct for not only for coaches and participants in youth recreational activities, but also for their parents, and a resolution requiring coaches and participants to live in Phillipsburg.

Dawn Slifer, Phillipsburg's director of recreation, estimated that the town spends $25,000 in equipment and pays $9,000 in sports insurance each year for football, baseball, softball, basketball, soccer and other programs.

She said more than 400 children between the ages of 5 and 15 participate in the programs, and between 60 and 70 coaches are involved.