Commissioners say “yes” to gate fees at Barber Park, but “no” to guns

Grady County commissioners held a powwow for just over two hours Tuesday with Recreation Director Becky Bracewell to establish policies and procedures to be used in managing and operating Barber Park.
Commissioners were unanimous in supporting a ban on guns, of any sort, being brought at the county recreational facility.
This is in contrast to the new state law recently signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal that allows for guns to be carried into bars, churches and some government buildings.
During the work session Tuesday afternoon, commissioners and Bracewell hammered out an agreement for the county to open the park to sports tournaments and other monetary gain events. For the first time, other than the middle school baseball program, tournament organizers will be permitted to charge a gate fee to participants under the proposed new regulations.
District 2 County Commissioner Billy Poitevint has been a vocal proponent of bringing in more tournament play to Barber Park as a means of creating economic development in the community. Poitevint also has pushed for establishing policies and procedures governing the management and operation of the county-owned recreation facilities.
“Some people think I have attacked you, personally. I haven’t done that. The whole reason this issue has come up is the fact that there is no policy out there and the county administrator can’t make policy. Only this board of commissioners can set policy, but under the previous administrator that was done,” Poitevint said.
The county’s recreation director deflected Poitevint’s comments and said she was not going to argue with him about if he had attacked her personally or not.
“I implement policy. I don’t make policy,” she said. The rec director went on to say that many of the policies she has followed over the last 26 years had been put in place over time and she welcomed the board putting its policies and procedures in writing.
Poitevint said that some tournaments attract as many as 3,000 people to the host communities and in Brooks County the District 2 commissioner said that tournaments net the county between $1,500 and $7,000 per tournament depending on the type of tournament.
“If the county opens up the park to tournaments and we get people in here they will spend their money here. For every dollar they spend we get three cents,” Poitevint said.
Recreation Director Bracewell said that Grady County would not attract large tournaments due to the lack of regulation sized fields as well as the lack of dining and lodging options.
“If you’ve ever been to Lee County there’s only two places to eat in Leesburg and if you go up to Americus there are three places to eat so the number of places to eat don’t cut it. They have a lot of tournaments at both of those places,” Poitevint said.
“We aren’t set up to host large tournaments. I’m all for having tournaments, but we don’t have the people to put in place to put them on,” Mrs. Bracewell said.
She also pointed out that typically the tournament association or booking agent profits from the gate fee charged and not the county.
Commissioners agreed Tuesday to allow tournament organizers to charge a gate fee for spectators, but the board was split on the county requiring a portion of the proceeds be paid to the county.
Poitevint said that tournaments would be less likely to come to Grady County if the county took a cut of the gate.
“I don’t see where it benefits us at all then. Why don’t we start renting out our bulldozers, too?” Commissioner Charles Norton said.
Over the next two weeks commissioners will continue to evaluate the proposed new policies and procedures. Commission Chairman T.D. David requested that the board be prepared to vote to adopt the plan at its next meeting.

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