Why the uproar now?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 2010

For more than a dozen years, the rec leagues in Covington County and the City of Andalusia, along with the respective governments of each, have been talking about working together to build a new, jointly-operated sports complex.

The figure $800,000 comes to mind when thinking back on the portion of a county bond issue that was to be designated for the recreation complex. That figure did not include maintenance of a new complex.

Time ticked on, concensus wasn’t reached, and the county has spent most of those capital improvement funds on other projects. You might notice a new roof on the courthouse and work under way to install a new elevator inside, for example.

With the number of participants in rec sports declining somewhat, parties quietly said, “We can’t justify a new sports park.”

Still, about 1,000 youth from the Andalusia and Covington County leagues played softball and baseball in Johnson Park last summer. That’s good news in a state plagued by obesity and with childhood obesity on the rise.

Andalusia officials proposed totally reworking Johnson Park, and began meeting with county representatives to iron out the details. Both sides agreed on the proposal that has been approved by Andalusia’s council but was voted down by commissioners on Monday. By opting out, they leave members of the county rec league without a place to play softball and baseball.

What we find confusing is that no one seemed to be complaining about the investment when the county was planning to put $800,000 in ball fields. Now that the county has been asked to contribute $25,000 for 15 years for construction (totalling $375,000, or less than half of that previous figure); and contribute annually to its upkeep, folks are up in arms. Residents of Florala and Opp and their mayors have argued against the proposal, saying, “Where’s ours?”

They are right to argue for their children, but we aren’t comparing apples and apples here. The “county” children who play in Opp, play in an established city league. Their participation swells the league’s numbers, but doesn’t cause the city to have to run an entirely different program in its facility.

It seems to us that Opp and Florala would have done better to have waited quietly until the county approved the proposal, then said, “us, too.” Instead, their arguments killed county tax dollars for recreation for ALL county children.

Meanwhile, someone else must be pressuring the commission because the chairman, who voted to reject the proposal Monday morning, was assuring all on Tuesday that he has a solution.

If the county doesn’t work out an agreement, a number of the kids currently in the county league will play in Andalusia; but history shows that the county league that allows rural children to practice at their schools brought about 350 kids into the program.

Those are the ones who’ll be shut out of the ball park if this 12-year discussion doesn’t end. Quickly.