While the first baseball and softball practices since the COVID-19 health emergency Monday evening at the Billy Kiersey Baseball/Softball complex the Booneville City Council was voting to shut down the program for the year.
The matter of youth sports and the city owned pool came up as addendums to the agenda for the May meeting, which was held a week early due to the regulary meeting date of the fourth Monday of the month being Memorial Day.
The decision was not a popular one leading to a barrage of social media posts and discussion, including one that had over well over 100 comments in 14 hours and another by councilman Steve Reid on his personal page, who invited anyone to discuss the matter to give him a call directly.
Initially in the discussion Booneville Mayor Jerry Wilkins said he was’t opposed to allowing the teams who desired to play go ahead with plans to do so, depending on a decision on youth sports and camps Governor Asa Hutchinson was due to announce on Wednesday.
That decision was actually put off until Thursday at which time Hutchinson permitted kindergarten through 12th grade athletes — not collegiate — to play baseball, sofball, track, gymnastics, and swimming but kept closed through June full contact practies in football, basketball, and wrestling.
Wilkins had also stated that it was his understanding that only two of the five towns in the league had committed to continuing to play.
Booneville, at that point, and Charleston had opted to return to the field but Magazine, County Line, and Paris will not, Wilkins said.
There are actually six in the league, including the Coal Hill/Hartman.
City clerk Gayleene West told the council the league had gotten about 190 players during the signup period and that the funds derived from the fees are still in a parks commission account.
Wilkins said Tuesday the city would be refunding the registration fees. West said she would set up a plan to do so and announce the procedure soon.
Councilman Eddie Gossett ultimately voted to cancel the season, with councilman Guy Robson seconding the motion. The motion passed with a 6-0 vote.
“I think we’re doing them a favor, I think it will be a fiasco,” Wilkins said before adding, “we don’t need to do anything stupid. We need to put all of our efforts to working on getting school started.”
Wilkins began the discussion about the pool by saying he was in favor of keeping it closed, although pools were permitted to open, with limitations in place, on May 22.
“It will be late and the health regulations are so strenuous, you have to take water samples two or three times a day,” said Wilkins. “Plus with the guidance (from the state) and lifeguards we’d probably have room for about six people.”
Wilkins also said the pool showed a loss of $15,590.57 in 2019.
Booneville Water Department Superintendent Larry Maness said it would be at least June 15 before his department could have the pool ready for business.
To do that would require draining the pool, the annual repainting with $80 per gallon paint — a total cost of about $2,400.
“I don’t want to send a crew out to paint and this (virus) blow up again and we have to shut it down,” said Maness.
Wilkins added he was told the city could be exposed to a liability in the event of a viral transmission tracked to the pool.