Butler County Times Gazette
  • Kent Bush: Meeting with the Stars

  • Soccer often thrives under authoritarian regimes.
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  • Soccer often thrives under authoritarian regimes.
    With that being true, there may be hope for Augusta's little kickers.
    The Augusta Youth Soccer was the latest victim of the inquisition being held by some members of the Augusta City Council. There is no local business or organization the council won't insult or threaten.
    The Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Augusta Inc. can both relate to the treatment the Augusta Youth Soccer endured over the past few weeks.
    Some say this band of rebels who won't even let children use their hands while playing a sport deserved what they got.
    In order to secure a highly valued utility abatement from the city, the group had to be placed on two agendas and produce financial documents to prove "they needed the help" before a majority of the council would agree to allow them the use of about $900 of electricity during the course of their season.
    Councilor Mike Huddleston continued his theme from previous meetings and other local groups that he doesn't want to offer the city's assistance to any group that doesn't need the money.
    Where does he think the vast wealth of Augusta Youth Soccer comes from?
    All of the revenue the group brings in comes from local sponsorships and fees charged to parents. Any cost this council pushes back on Augusta Youth Soccer would cost those local supporters and parents more to participate.
    That seems unreasonable.
    But at least Huddleston said he understood the need to help the group and voted in favor of the abatement. Councilor Sue Jones was never convinced and even voted against the abatement.
    Jones said a group that has $12,000 in carryover can afford to pay utilities. That would have meant more money diverted from making the playing surfaces better, purchasing equipment and providing a fun season for several hundred children who participate in the league.
    It is important to keep these city council cost cutters in perspective. Conservative fiscal policy is never a bad thing. It is appreciated whenever the tax bills come.
    But while this governing body spends part of the meeting pinching pennies, they spend the rest of it burning hundred dollar bills.
    This council that kept both hands tightly squeezed around a $900 utility abatement spent an extra $1,236 to purchase chain link fence with a black PVC coating rather than standard chain link around the new spillway at the city lake. They also approved a $5,050 concrete drive approach off of the new Lakeview Drive that the project engineer admitted was probably inflated by about $2,000 over what the bid should have been.
    Both were approved unanimously.
    The council is also considering painting the new spillway at a cost to the city of more than $25,000. Apparently, the spillway concrete is so bright that some residents nearby have to keep their blinds shut during the day and painting the concrete beige would make a significant difference.
    Page 2 of 2 - Is the project appropriate? Probably.
    But if you will spend $25,000 for the convenience of a few families around the lake but won't allow $900 in free utilities to a group of volunteers trying to provide a soccer league for hundreds of children, one has to wonder about what motivates each decision.
    The city doesn't want to spend the money to create a recreation commission. Until the council is willing to do something to support these activities, they should at least support those who are willing to volunteer their time to offer these programs locally.
    It is time for this council to stop trying to win the Emmy for Best Reality Show and start treating these people who are forced to appear before them as friends and neighbors who have the same positive motivation to serve the city in their selected organizations as the members of the council did when they ran for office.
    Kent Bush is the Augusta Gazette Publisher, a columnist and blogger for the GateHouse Media Network. He can be contacted at publisher@augustagazette.com.
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