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4H Shooting Club on County Property

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August 28, 2017, 14:29
4H Shooting Club on County Property
Would be beyond grateful for any thoughts/comments on an issue I've been dancing with for a while:

Our local 4H club wants to lease unused county property out in the country with one of those long term, $1/year leases. Apparently the groundwork for this was laid out back in the 1980s, but it petered out before going anywhere.

My primary concern is liability- don't want somebody to get shot on county property and then sue the county. I'm quite confident that leasing public land for a local shooting club would be considered a proprietary rather than governmental activity, thus negating sovereign immunity.

Has anyone here dealt with this issue before? Any thoughts/comments/suggestions? Thank you in advance!!
August 30, 2017, 09:50
Scott Brumley
For what it's worth, I would note that counties are political subdivisions of the state, not municipal corporations, so they do not exercise proprietary functions; they only exercise governmental functions. Essentially, that's why it's fundamental county law that a county must find authority for any action it takes in the constitution or statutes, rather than having free-ranging authority that is only bounded or restricted by the constitution or statutes (as is the case with home-rule municipalities).

Additionally, in a lease, the lessor generally has no duty to third parties on the leased premises. The lessee generally bears that duty, except in areas where the lessor retains a possessory interest (usually, common areas maintained by the lessor, if the lease provides for that arrangement).

Even so, if the county were to decide to move forward on the arrangement, I would suggest requiring that the club purchase insurance naming the county as an insured party, as well as a beneficiary for any potential damage that may result from the contemplated use.
August 30, 2017, 12:05
That's a huge help- thank you very much!