Facilties board holds public forum on youth league

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Facilities Board (FB) was scheduled to hold a meeting Wednesday night, but was unable to formally conduct business due to a lack of a quorum. The only two members present were Secretary/Treasurer Kellie Snyder and member David Hixson. President Ryan Perkins tendered his resignation since the last meeting and President Brent Edwards and member Billy Fair were both absent.

The meeting, which became merely a public forum, displayed moments of great restraint and at other times moments of great passion. Hixson served as the moderator for the meeting.

“First of all we want to apologize for not having a quorum. We have a lot of things going on. Most of you know that we have had one that has resigned. Billy Fair, which is a member, is also a School Board member and Billy is right now at a school board meeting…Brent is not here, so we do not have a quorum,” Hixson said. “There are certain things that we can do, that we can bring up and talk about, but there are certain things that we can’t. One thing that I can bring up though is…we have five members, but the ordinance says that we can have a total of seven. So I don’t want this to happen anymore. You know it isn’t anybody’s fault. It’s just the way things are sometimes when people have other things going on…I have already reached out to several people about being on this board and I’ve had probably…I probably shouldn’t mention names, but I’ve had at least two people that have for sure accepted that. That would give us a total of six, so we need one more.”

The Blytheville School Board did not, however, conduct a meeting Wednesday evening. When Fair was called and asked about his absence he said, “I just have got a lot going on so I wasn’t able to make it. I had work reasons. I had a few more meetings going on. I am on two boards and I’m also working too...it’s not fitting in my schedule like I’d like for it to.”

The board passed out copies of a request by Arkansas Northeastern College to use the Sportsplex for a softball camp, from May 5-12, for two half-day camps for girls ages 5-13. The board expressed their inclination to offer free usage of the facility to the college.

Hixson added, “We are here I think for all the right reasons. We are here for the kids of our community. First and foremost that is what we’ve got to keep our focus on.”

He also praised the facility and the volunteers.

“I know that we as a Facility Board are in support of what we decided and that was to have the BBSB have control…we were trying to resolve some issues that are out there and I would say this, it’s going to be hard to please everybody. I don’t know if it can happen. Everybody sort of has an agenda and I would just like to say this, with all my heart and with all my soul, whatever we do, lets just make sure that we keep these kids in mind. Because you know what? At the end of the day the only winners and the only losers in this are these kids,” Hixson said.

He then opened it up for public comment and discussion. Much discussion was made regarding the need for a master calendar and also regarding who would get preferential access to use of the facilities. Hixson announced that the BBSB would be in charge of any master calendar.

“Is the field going to be open for any other use, like co-ed when Little League is through?” Councilwoman Barbara Brothers asked.

Hixson answered, “Yes. When the time is done with what we are doing with the league, there will be access for that…A lot is said about taxpayer money. But I think a kid that wants to play ball ought to have the opportunity to do so. I think that the board of the BBSB would agree on that…but there has to be limitations to how and when. There has to be a very concerted effort to how things are planned out in the proper way. Is it going to please everybody?...when you look at the logistics of things…ten years ago there wasn’t a problem. Well there are different things going on now. There are different levels of play.”

“Will the fields still be used for practice?” Brothers followed up.

“Well that still has to be worked out,” Hixson answered.

A question was raised about fair treatment to all people, whether BBSB or not, since it was a public facility built as a result of a quarter cent sales tax was approved by the voters of Blytheville.

“I ask because it’s not a public entity for private use. That’s the law and we have to follow the law,” Brothers said.

“Yes, but as the ordinance indicates…the league is obviously going to come first,” Hixson answered.

“Yes; that has never been a question,” Brothers agreed.

When Hixson was asked if the BBSB had pulled back their resignation, Hixson answered, “I think that is still pending. I don’t think that decision has been made. I think there has been some talk amongst them. I feel optimistic that things are going to happen.”

Some comments and questions indicated confusion regarding what the problems were that are threatening the new season.

Some complained they had requested use of the fields for either practices or to host a tournament, but were simply told either ‘no’ or that they needed to get permission from the FB. It was then stressed that the FB was not in place at the time and when asked who told them to get the FB’s permission, no answer was given.

Connie Ash then said, “I have a question about finances. This [the ANC request] is awesome. This is wonderful…I own Faultline Athletics and I sit on the board of Faultline Baseball, which happens to be a non-profit. This is wonderful, but we were approached today and asked if we would be willing to pay $60 per player to use the field for practice. So I want to know, fair and evenly before…are these people also going to pay $60 per player to use a public field? Is that how this is going to work?”

“I called Chad today and I was asking how much he charges his kids…” Hixson replied.

“Well let me tell you…. let me give you an example. Because we have been called an elitist group. Which we are not. And we’ve been called for profit. Which we are not. We are 501(C)(3). Our travel teams are non-profit. And I have a letter to support the information. Last year’s 12U team [members] for BBSB paid $60 to play league. They pay $280 to play on a travel team, which they call all-stars since they aren’t a travel league. Faultline pays $280 per kid period. We scholarshipped 17 kids last year. Our kids pay less money to play ball than the BBSB kids. So no, we’re not going to pay $60 to play on that field and I don’t think that we should have to pay $60 to play on that field,” Ash explained.

“I did not ask for that. I asked if he charged the kids to play…that’s all I asked,” Hixson answered.

“I just wanted to make sure that the numbers were out there because we’re not charging any more to play ball that the BBSB travel teams are charging,” Ash said.

Many people then jumped in regarding whether or not the BBSB ever changed players to play on all-star (travel) teams. Some said yes and some said never. Others said it was for hotel rooms or maybe just as a fundraiser.

Ash then suggested, “Talking about the future…just make sure that they are all even…if other non-profits go out there to play, they should all be treated the same.”

Snyder also announced, “There is a lot of work that I know Coach Hixson has been doing behind the scenes that we aren’t able to talk about tonight…I promise we are working as hard as we can behind the scenes…we don’t have a qurom tonight. We can’t make any decisions tonight. And I apologize for that. One had to work tonight and the other had the Blytheville School Board,” Snyder said.

When asked after the meeting by the CN who would manage the leagues and control the calendar if the BBSB does not rescind their resignation, Hixson said that the FB most likely would.

Snyder then promised, “We will still have leagues.”

BBSB President Jonathan Howard said that Hixson, the mayor and several council members have asked the BBSB to operate the leagues, but that a decision has not been made yet. “There is a lot of things that need to ironed out or worked out.”