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Parks panel hears group’s grievances

The Dr. A.L. Lott Youth Baseball program remains embroiled incontroversy after a Tuesday night meeting of the Brookhaven ParksCommission in which members of the Community Action Groupconfronted the board about perceived injustices in the way theleague is run.

Community Action Group President Roy Smith began the meeting bytelling the board that he had been given information to indicatethat there would be no scholarshipping for underprivileged kids whocouldn’t pay the $35 entry fee. Smith said the CAG wanted the boarddismantled and replaced by representatives from each ward in thecity.

“We need people who know what’s going on with the children andtheir needs, and we don’t have that because we don’t even have asummer baseball program,” he said. “As long as things are dividedby the railroad tracks, things will never change, and if thingsnever change, they’ll remain the same. And if they remain the same,they’ll never change.”

Meanwhile, members of the board said there had been scholarshipsavailable as always, because the way they are given is thatrecreation department representatives raise the funds throughprivate individuals and businesses. However, no scholarship formswere requested or filled out this year.

Ten-year board veteran Robert Kenny pointed out that if noscholarship forms were requested by prospective players, noscholarships could be given.

“On these scholarships last year, everyone that turnedscholarships in was scholarshipped, we got alternate funding forthe kids,” he said. “The kids that turned these in the last twoyears, they played. You can’t fund anybody if they don’t turn ourapplication in.”

Fellow commission member Woody Breeland went on to say thatSmith’s assertions that there was not enough advanced notice forchildren to find funding was inaccurate.

He said registration started in January, and the registrationforms went to the schools to be sent home with every child on Feb.26. The first week in March, recreation department officials sent aletter to every player that played the year before, as well ascalling their homes to let them know registration had begun, andfrom March 11-13, a baseball clinic was held for prospective Lottparticipants.

At that point, Breeland said, registration was extended anotherweek to March 20, and uniforms were ordered on April 2, but peoplewere allowed to continue to register up until the order was sentfor the uniforms.

Recreation Department Director Terry Reid told the group thatthe deadlines had been advertised on the radio, in the newspaper,that it had been on television and that fliers had been sent hometo every child in the schools.

Smith argued that there should not be deadlines on children’sactivities.

“We don’t want to put a deadline when we’re talking about ourchildren,” he said.

Breeland pointed out that the deadline was actually veryinclusive.

“We had a deadline that started in January and went untilApril,” Breeland said. “Sometimes you’ve got to be able to rememberthat we play in the summer and we sign up in the spring. It’s thesame every year.”

CAG member Jeanette Newton angrily denied that her grandchildrenhad been given fliers about the league, making it out to be aracial issue.

“Our race of people didn’t get them, I’m going to make thatclear,” she said.

But so far 87 children, primarily black, are signed up to playin the Lott league, recreation officials pointed out.

Board member Willie “Doc” Harrison told the CAG representativesthat adults should have been more on the ball about the deadlines,and should quit using the children and race as excuses tofight.

“Until we act like adults and step up to the plate these kidswill suffer,” he said. “We at the recreation department have doneeverything to make sure everyone was informed. We made sure thatevery homeroom gets those fliers. You’re not going to give one kida flyer and not another kid.”

Newton raised her voice at Harrison, telling him he should havelet her know personally when the deadlines were instead of relyingon other media and sources to pass it along.

“God sees and hears you, hear, you’re hurting our kids,” shesaid as she pointed at Harrison.

Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates and Ward Three Alderman candidateBrian Moore were both in attendance, and offered suggestions forways to help the program along.

“I’m looking to the businesses in that area, money’s goingthrough that community,” Bates said. “Some of them don’t want tosponsor this, but we need to be down there on them about it,because they’re raking in so much money on beverages, making thanPiggly Wiggly. These people have to help, too.”

Moore suggested since the community on the east side of towncommunicates so much through the churches, perhaps in the futurefliers could be distributed to the churches as well.

Breeland said the board will discuss the issues brought to theboard by the CAG and issue a response in the near future.