Overland Park plan to use CARES Act funding for soccer complex cameras draws criticism

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A controversy is brewing about the use of CARES Act money in Overland Park.

The city plans to use some of the federal funding to install cameras at Scheel’s Overland Park Soccer Complex and broadcast the games for a fee.

The CARES Act was passed by Congress, “For the express purpose of providing fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families and small businesses, and preserve jobs for our American industries.”

Some people feel that using this money to outfit Scheels Soccer Complex with cameras isn’t in the spirit of the CARES Act.

“On the surface, it didn’t seem logical to me,” Overland Park City Councilman Dr. Faris Farassati said.

Farassati opposed the move to use $350,000 in federal relief money to outfit Scheels Soccer Complex with high-tech camera equipment to stream games to families and anyone else who wants to pay to watch.

“The city, the local government is in the business of providing services,” Farassati said. “It should not be in the business of making money.”

Under this plan, the city of Overland Park will give 30% of the proceeds from the pay-per-view, streaming and downloads to Musco Sports Lighting, which will provide the service. The city will keep the rest.

“I don’t think the council members who voted yes for it were paying attention to the fact that this is a clear example of detachment of government from reality,” Farassati said.

Overland Park City Councilman Chris Newlin disagrees.

“This is an appropriate program,” he said. “We followed the rules. We filled out an application, and we asked for this.”

Newlin is one of 10 city council members who voted yes for the funds. He’s a soccer coach at Scheels and said social distancing doesn’t usually happen at games. He sees it himself from the sidelines.

“The parents are right there next to each other,” Newlin said. “Yes, they have masks on, but they’re not social distancing.”

CARES Act money flows to cities through the county government. Along with about 30 other requests, Overland Park applied for the $350,000 as a public health request for social distancing. The county approved it because it said the request meet the CARES Act eligibility requirements.

“So what I say is part of COVID is that we are trying to bring people together again in some form or fashion, and we do that through technology. This is one method of doing it,” Newlin said.

Although the proposal was approved by the county, Farassati believes the proposal had what he calls a “COVID twist” to justify the money.

“I want it go to much more deserving places if it’s possible,” Farassati said. “Even let other counties, let other cities apply for that money that they might deserve much more than cameras in soccer fields.”

Newlin responded, “My job is to take care of Overland Park. My job is not to take care of everyone else in the county. That’s not what I was elected to do.”

The city does not know how it will handle situations where parents don’t want their children broadcast on the internet. Others who oppose it say the cameras won’t be installed until next year when COVID-19 is expected to slow down or there could be a vaccine.

Farassati and fellow councilman Scott Hamblin plan to move to rescind the expenditure at the next city council meeting.

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