Bush: ‘No’ vote will kill rec league

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 28, 2010

If the county does not sign the joint recreational agreement with the City of Andalusia Monday, it will “kill the county rec league,” Wayne Bush said Friday.

Bush, who serves as the chairman of the Covington County Recreation Board, said it was his opinion the new agreement is vital to the county’s ball program.

“If they don’t sign it, it will kill the county leagues,” Bush said. “There’s no way that 526 kids can play on school fields. It’s unrealistic, but if (commissioners) don’t sign, we don’t have an alternative. It will be the end of us.”

Eddie Stacey, CCRB member, agrees with Bush’s opinion.

“What I want to know is where are all those county kids going to play if (the agreement) doesn’t go through?” Stacey said. “We all want what’s best for these kids, but we have to ask. Talk about this project began back in 1998. To us, we don’t see any other option.”

City officials have already begun the demolition portion of the project, which if agreed upon, would provide for both city and county baseball and softball leagues use of the park.

For that privilege, the agreement calls for an annual $45,000 payment from the county –$20,000 for the operation and maintenance of the fields and $25,000 for the debt service on the field construction. That payment would escalate through the end of the 15-year contract, when the payment would be $49,500. There is a 15-year renewal clause in the agreement.

Final cost for the project is estimated at $1.5 million, with the bulk of the expense carried by the city and funded through a recent bond measure.

Stacey said the average construction cost for a “good” field is estimated at $125,000, and “that includes lighting, irrigation and such.”

“So when you look at that cost, plus the $20,000 (the city) is asking for a year for maintenance, which includes electricity, water and up keep, plus they’re furnishing the labor, that’s a steal,” he said. “If the county chooses to build fields at the schools, who is going to maintain those? It’s about simple economics.

“Look at it this way,” he said. “If the county says, ‘no,’ look at the revenue they’ll lose – uniforms from the Sports Shoppe; shoes and socks from Wal-Mart and Hibbett’s, gas traveling back and forth, eats at McDonald’s, Burger King or pizza from Little Caesars. Think about it. That’s a lot of sales tax revenue gone if these 526 kids aren’t playing ball.”

Previously, commissioners voiced concern on the county’s ability to handle the financial burden of the project. Additionally, mayors in Florala and Opp have addressed the need for equitable funding for their respective cities, should the county approve the agreement.

At the last commission meeting, the measure was tabled; however, it is now set as one of the first action items at Monday’s commission meeting.

Also on the agenda are remarks from Florala Mayor Robert Williamson, Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar, Bush and City of Andalusia Department of Leisure Services Director Dwight Mikel, who is requesting funding assistance for the 2011 Babe Ruth World Series. The meeting, which will be held in the county administration building on Hillcrest Drive, begins at 9:30 a.m.