How can Ohio amusement parks reopen with some state ride inspectors laid off?


By Randy Ludlow - The Columbus Dispatch



COLUMBUS — From roller coasters to kiddie rides, Ohio’s amusement parks can reopen beginning June 19, but a potential problem remains — the state’s amusement ride inspection team is not at full strength due to layoffs last month.

The 89 rides at Cedar Point at Sandusky and the 65 rides at Kings Island near Cincinnati require inspections and permits before they are allowed to open, with the state saying Monday it will work to meet their opening dates.

Smaller amusement parks and water parks with aquatic rides, also permitted to reopen June 19, also will require state ride inspections after the state on Friday relaxed its coronavirus-caused closures.

With no rides to check, and with fees funding their salaries, two of the ten state inspectors were furloughed last month as part of $4.8 million in budget cuts by the Ohio Department of Agriculture as the economic fallout from coronavirus drastically undercut state tax collections.

Agency spokeswoman Shelby Croft said the two will be back within 10 to 14 days. Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda has authorized overtime hours and pay to meet the sudden demand for ride inspections.

“Our inspectors will not compromise safety for speed, but will work diligently to ensure thorough inspections in order that all rides will operate safely,” Croft said.

Spokesmen for Kings Island and Cedar Point declined to comment Monday on the need for state ride inspections. The parks have not yet announced their reopening plans.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed “Tyler’ Law” late last year to improve amusement ride safety and inspection standards after Tyler Jarrell, 18, of the West Side, was killed during the 2017 Ohio State Fair when one of the rusted gondolas broke off the Fire Ball ride and crashed to the ground. A second victim, Jennifer Lambert, 19, of Columbus, later died of liver failure after suffering a traumatic brain injury in the incident.

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By Randy Ludlow

The Columbus Dispatch

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