Banks County Opinions...

August 9, 2000

By Drew Brantley
The Banks County News
August 9, 2000

Need for officials only growing
This past weekend I upgraded my cable to get more channels. It is fun to get 40 kinds of HBO.
But I also get the ESPN Classic channel. I never thought it would be fun to watch games that I knew the outcome of already, but it is. This weekend I saw Mike Scott pitch a no-hitter for the Houston Astros to clinch the 1986 NL West Division.
That game was followed by the legendary 1969 college football matchup of number one Texas and number two Arkansas. Watching a game that happened before I was born was interesting enough to watch. While the stands were filled with people in clothes that are now back in style, the game on the field was not that much different from one that might come on this year. There were fewer passes, though there were many more than I thought there would be.
One big difference on the field was evident at the coin toss. Before the referee tossed the coin into the air, he introduced the two teams' captains to the rest of the crew. That act is not so interesting. What struck me as odd was that besides the referee, there were just three other officials. Even though Arkansas would put the ball in the air several times in the game, Texas did not.
Four referees could not handle a college game in today's game. I thought about current high schools games that now feature at least five and sometimes six officials. With more teams throwing the ball more often, a larger crew is a necessity.
That fact reminded me of a recent story about a growing shortage of high school officials in Georgia and across the nation.
A recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution stated that the number of football officials is steadily declining. While most football people agree that we have plenty of linesmen, umpires and back judges for the upcoming season, they also say that the near future could be very different.
Apparently fewer younger people get into officiating. And those that do get in don't stick around.
Mike O'Neil is the secretary of the Blue Ridge Officials Association, which provides Banks County and several Northeast Georgia high schools with football referees.
While O'Neil said that his numbers are up from last year, he said that it is harder to keep officials. In three years, Blue Ridge had lost 18 officials. Of those 18, 10 had quit because of lack of interest.
In a letter sent to GHSA deputy executive director Ralph Swearngin, O'Neil said that most of those 10 had said "it's just not worth it." O'Neil also cited that area recreation departments can offer more money and less travel than high school games can. Adding in clinics, travel, and study to actual game time, the $60 or so available for varsity games does not work out to much incentive, O'Neil said.
Officials are often taken for granted. But unlike the other people involved in a high school football game, officials have to be there. Without officials there could be no game.
Fans, coaches and players may complain about how the officials' calls cost them a game here or there. But the truth is that we need them. If it means that schools have to pay more money, that may be the only alternative.
O'Neil suggested doubling the pay scale to $100 and $120 per varsity game. Schools must use booster club money to pay the officials. Putting more burden on those pools of money would not be welcomed joyously. Smaller crews or full crews of less experienced officials are not the answer either.
It may be time to suffer a little, rather than be faced with officials altering the game not by their calls, but by their inability to call the best game they can.
Drew Brantley is the sports editor for The Commerce News and The Banks County News.

The Banks County News
August 9, 2000

Fire dept. is in need of SPLOST funds
As the Banks County Board of Commissioners works to divide the proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST), it must remember to keep the county's fire department as a priority.
Yes, water expansion is important. A significant percentage of the multi-purpose SPLOST should be dedicated to water system improvements and expansion, including the construction of a new off-creek reservoir.
Water expansion will attract future commercial and industrial growth. And, in times of drought, many residents will need the water lines when their wells run dry.
Road paving and other road and bridge improvements are also a necessity to help the county handle healthy growth.
Yet, the upgrading of the county's fire department will undoubtedly be beneficial to each citizen living in Banks County.
Certainly, the fire department's "wish list" may be lavish in some areas. A $200,000 aerial ladder truck may be hard for the department to justify, especially since the county has just one or two buildings which really require such equipment. Department leaders must be careful not to ask for too much.
But with reports of old fire engines catching fire en route to emergencies, the department's need for new engines and tankers cannot be denied.
Fire trucks that never make it to a fire are a waste to the county and could end up costing thousands of dollars in property damage, or even loss of human lives.
New equipment will no doubt help the fire department do a better job and will eventually help to lower the county's fire insurance rating.
The BOC will have to walk a fine line over the next few months between what is desired and what is really needed from the upcoming SPLOST. The board should be both generous and cautious in its allocations.
But if the fire department's requested 18 percent of the expected SPLOST buys much-needed equipment that improves response time and makes Banks County a safer place to live, it will be worth it.

By Shar Porier
The Banks County News
August 9, 2000

A day in the life...
Having some free time is a wonderful thing! You get to do what you want or take care of some needed chores or go shopping!
Well, I chose shopping. That seemed to be the thing to do. After all, I had a good excuse, I needed a new pair of shoes. Just a simple pair of black dress shoes­not too high (because I'm sort of tall), not too low (because I'm too lazy to hem my dress pants).
I say pants because that is what I wear most of the time. As a photographer, I often have to dress up for wedding and various gala-type shoots. And, it's far more comfortable to be in some fancy pantsuit.
I had a pair that had lasted me for years, still lookin' brand new. That is, until one night this past June, when a dear friend of mine got married.
The ceremony was held at a picturesque bed and breakfast in Acworth with beautiful grounds and gardens. One couldn't have asked for a more romantic setting in which to have an outdoor wedding­set amidst flowering pathways, lovely old oaks and the setting sun. I was so happy for him!
I got out of the car and saw the gravel­the big chunky stuff that just doesn't make for solid footing in heels. But, I thought nothing of it.
After a couple of trips to the car and many photos later, I sat down to relax a bit. I crossed my legs and ...gasped! The gravel had literally eaten the leather off my heels and scratched up the sides of my shoes. Good grief! How embarrassing! Here I was in this expensive, elegant pantsuit with ratty shoes on!
After getting over the urge to "soundly smite" the owner for putting down such an inappropriate groundcover, I glanced around at the other ladies. Whew! I wasn't alone. And quite a few of them were keeping their shoes as hidden as much as possible. They were tucked under their husband's/boyfriend's legs or as far under chairs as they could get them. There was not a whole lot of walking around that night by the ladies.
Well, anyway, so here I am at the outlet malls on I-85. Hey, I should have no trouble finding a pair here, I thought.
As I made my way from store to store, (and there sure are a lot of them), I was getting down right depressed. Most were too high or too pointy or too square-toed. Where had all the nice, classic, dressy little heels gone?
To liven things up, I tried on some of the "platform" (Is that what they call them now or am I dating myself?) shoes. After looking in the little shoe mirror, I decided these were better looking on Minnie Mouse than on me.
Then there were the shoes with nothing to cradle one's heels. Besides being clunky, they made a slapping sound with every step. Hmmmmm...this shoe-thing is beginning to be a bummer­big time.
After three hours, and trying on at least 50 pairs of shoes, I still hadn't found what I wanted. A wasted afternoon was not what I had intended at all.
Dejected, I walked to my car. Well, not exactly. You see, I had forgotten where I had parked my car. Yes, I could not find my car. I looked over here; I looked over there; I looked everywhere I thought I had parked my car.
As I walked back and forth across the parking lot, covering acres, I kept passing this old gentleman sitting on a bench watching me. He must think I've really lost it, I thought. I've only passed him four times now.
Ok. This was getting serious now. I'd just spent three hours looking for shoes that apparently don't exist and now I've spent 30 minutes looking for a car that seemingly doesn't exist.
Then, an idea burst through the fog! What about looking where I wouldn't park my car!?! In a matter of minutes and half an acre later, I found my van. I was so glad to see it! Overjoyed! Mainly because by now my feet were killing me, not just from walking from store to store, but from walking across the hot asphalt for the past 45 minutes. All I wanted to do was sit down in my van, turn on the air, stick in a tape and let the futility of the day wash out of me.
The tape I played was "Dire Straits." The first line that played was "sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug." It made me laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Knopler was right. Today, I was the bug. SPLAT!
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.














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