Ball fields finally OK’d

Published 1:07 am Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It took extra innings to get there, but when the Covington County Commission got down to its last out Monday, commissioners finally hit the ball, and youth sports scored – in Andalusia, Opp and Florala.

In previous meetings, commissioners had failed to approve an agreement negotiated by members of the Coving-ton County Recrea-tion Board, members of the commission and the City of Andalusia in which the county would have paid the city $45,000 per year for the use of the soon-to-be renovated Johnson Park by the county baseball and softball leagues. A portion of the money was for maintenance and part was for debt service.

Commissioners first tabled the agreement, then voted against it, 3-2, in a later meeting. Commission Chairman Lynn Sasser had planned a meeting to continue work on the matter, but later cancelled it, saying that “we couldn’t compromise on a compromise.”

But Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson played the role of cleanup hitter in a meeting in his office last week. Commissioners David Ellis and Harold Elmore, who had previously voted against the agreement, as well as County Administrator Brenda Petty, Opp Mayor H.D. Edgar and Florala Mayor Robert Williamson, attended.

The end result is funding for the county league’s play in the Andalusia facility, as well as contributions to athletic programs in Opp and Florala.

Beginning October 2012, the county will pay the City of Andalusia $38,750 a year – $18,750 for the project’s debt service and $20,000 for the operation and maintenance on the park – for the privilege of playing baseball and softball on the site’s eight fields once renovations are complete. That figure will increase by approximately $1,000 every five years for 20 years.

In separate agreements, the county voted to give the Covington County Recreation Board $5,000 for use by the City of Florala and $12,500 for use by the City of Opp “exclusively for those youth sports facilities and/or programs that are established and otherwise funded by the city.” Those figures increase by 5 percent every five years for 20 years.

“I feel like we got a lot accomplished,” Elmore said. “(The agreements) might not be right where we would have liked them to be dollar-wise, but we feel like all of the county is now involved.”

Commissioner Bragg Carter said, “I just commend Mayor Johnson. He was persistent and would not give up on making this agreement work. He and Brenda (Petty), both of them should be commended for making it work for all the cities and the all of the children everywhere.”

CCRB President Wayne Bush, who was present at the Monday’s meeting, said, “This agreement allows our leagues to continue to exist. I’m glad it passed. We were so happy to learn that a compromise had been reached.”

All three agreements must be reviewed by attorneys before final implementation.