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April 29, 2013

Lights go out on Georgetown ballpark

Town wants to lease park; former director says he’s being pushed out

GEORGETOWN —

For eight years, Billy Haller operated the Georgetown Park softball field. He cut the grass, took care of the entire facility and organized leagues and tournaments.

But Haller said he has been forced out after the town decided to lease the park this year, departing from its previous policy of hiring him as an independent contractor. He said the decision has forced him to give up taking care of the park because he can’t afford liability insurance and other costs associated with leasing the park. And since no one else has stepped forward to lease the facility, adult softball leagues in Georgetown have been canceled.

Haller said some town officials have a personal vendetta against him and his wife Kathy — who is a Georgetown Town Board member — which led to the decision to lease the park. He said they wanted him out.

“I think they got what they wanted. They have one less thing to worry about,” Haller said. “They wanted me to turn it down.”

Jim Reynolds, public works director for Georgetown, said the town “bent over backward” for Haller and wanted to give him the opportunity to lease the park. But he said Haller was not interested.

“We tried negotiating with him, but he withdrew,” Reynolds said. “At this point we have no league director.”

Reynolds said the town did not have problems with Haller or the work he was doing. He said Haller’s performance has been praised at public meetings.

“We have nothing against Billy Haller at all. He did a good job,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said the town wanted to do things legally, and after Haller approached an auditor with the Indiana State Board of Accounts and asked if he should be considered a town employee — which would have allowed him to receive benefits and other compensation — town officials started looking into his employment.

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