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LAA, Linden BOE at impasse

By Jeremy D. Smith

jsmith@demopolistimes.com

LINDEN – Perhaps the strongest move to reconcile the Linden High football team with Linden Athletic Field died without a second Monday night.

Showing his support of a good faith measure offered by the Linden Athletic Association (LAA) – the group that owns and operates Linden Athletic Field – Linden City Board of Education member Dr. Bobby Hopper suggested the voting body accept a proposal by the LAA which would have addressed the concerns expressed by Linden Patriot supporters during the BOE’s Aug. 29 meeting. Hopper’s proposal fell flat without a second Monday.

“I think the demands of the community are important. It is strictly a board decision, but we are sensitive to the community,” Hopper said of his proposal. “My proposal was that the Linden Athletic Association has (met) every demand that has been asked for.”

Linden Athletic Association President Hale Smith provided a copy of the proposal to The Demopolis Times.

“In light of the current situation with Linden Athletic Field, Linden Athletic Association continues to hope that the Linden City Board of Education will make the best decision for the children and schools of our good community,” the proposal began.

The offering from the Linden Athletic Association included nine points of concession on the part of the LAA.

The first of those stated that the “Linden Athletic Association will set up a new board of directors with equal representation from both schools. This board of directors will consist of 3 Linden City School representatives and 3 Marengo Academy representatives.”

That concession came in response to a request made during the Aug. 29 meeting by Linden community members who believed decisions governing Linden Athletic Field should be made by representatives from both school.

Offering in its second item that “Linden Athletic Association will paint over all logos and school signs. Only temporary signs representing the school that is playing a game will be allowed during the game and the signs will be removed immediately after.”

The third item brought with it a similar concession.

“The new board of directors will work out a plan for both schools to utilize the south concession stand currently being used by Marengo Academy,” the proposal’s third item reads.

The LAA also proposed to remove the wooden fence and gate many Patriot faithful perceived to be showing favoritism to the MA Longhorns.

Other items on the proposal included the establishment of work days on which both Marengo Academy and Linden High School would provide volunteers to help with the maintenance of the facility, the moving of bleachers from Scott Park to LAF in an effort to comply with an earlier agreement, the allowing of each school to charge for parking during its respective games and the charging of $500 per game to LHS for the remaining 2011 contests – a move that would temporarily return Linden to its facility usage fee prior to the implementation of a $6,500 charge imposed at the beginning of the season.

“Hale (Smith) met every one of those demands with the exception of the city taking over the field,” Hopper said of the Linden Athletic Association’s response to the list of requirements provided by Linden High supporters during the August meeting. “Hale went out of his way, I would think, to make sure every one of those demands were met and plus more. I don’t know why (the motion) didn’t get a second. My daddy told me a long time ago, if you’re not willing to do something by yourself, don’t do it. I didn’t mind being the only one last night. I did my part. I’ll continue to do my part.”

“…The refusal to accept the compromise solution by the remaining board members is both astonishing and heartbreaking,” the Linden Athletic Association said via a release Tuesday. “It appears clear that the children at LHS that participate in football, band and cheerleading are being used to further someone’s personal agenda. This should be unacceptable from people who are responsible for making decisions for safety and education of the children in our community.”

The failure of Hopper’s latest motion comes nearly a full two months after he seconded a motion to move Linden High School’s 2011 home football games from Linden Athletic Field to Marengo High School.

“I honestly thought that first night when I seconded that motion that we would have this thing worked out in a week or two,” Hopper said.

Moments after the passing of the Sept. 1 motion that moved the Patriots’ temporary home to Marengo High School, Curry also motioned that the BOE request the city take over management of Linden Athletic Field and that, should the city decline to do so, the field be deeded to the Linden Board of Education. That motion passed with a 5-0 vote.

The Linden Board of Education drafted a letter to the Linden City Council on Sept. 2 that formally followed through on its decision. Curry and the Linden BOE were informed during the Oct. 4 city council meeting that the Linden municipality possesses no power to force the Linden Athletic Association to hand over control of Linden Athletic Field.

Exactly what the Linden BOE will do next remains to be seen. But, as Hopper acknowledged, there have been discussions regarding the city school system building its own football field.

“I know there is a movement to try to build ‘their own’ field. That’s just not feasible. I don’t see the city of Linden with budget cuts and proration, being able to build a field,” Hopper said. “There is money available to write grants and all, but do you want to write grants to build a football field when your teachers need a pay raise? Do you want to write grants for a football field when your buildings need repair? Especially when you have a top-notch field to play on already.”

“Linden Athletic Association has bent over backwards to remove all stumbling blocks to satisfy the requirements of LHS, and, at this point, honestly does not know what more can be done,” Smith said via the Tuesday release. “But we are most willing to listen to any reasonable suggestions that might still provide a solution to the most unfortunate situation. We wish ultimate success to the Linden Patriots for the remaining season, and hope they bring home a state championship. We are just not sure where home is anymore.”

The top-ranked Patriots will host Class 1A No. 2 Brantley at Demopolis High School’s Tiger Stadium Friday night.

Attempts to reach Curry for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.