Madison County Opinion...

AUGUST 4, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
August 4, 2004

Frankly Speaking

Gov’t should never compete with private enterprise
An old friend of mine has a problem with local government. He has spent a great deal of time and effort to build a private soft ball park in Colbert.
He had leased the park to a tournament operator, generating a small supplement to his retirement income. The problem arose when the Madison County Recreation Department offered to lease the fields at Mize Park at a lower rate.
According to my friend, the price quoted by the county was below his operating expenses. Had he met the price, he would have been operating at a loss. As a result, his private softball park is sitting unused for the summer.
Now, ball fields have to be maintained or they deteriorate rapidly. If my friend decides not to keep the fields mowed, the base paths repaired after each rain, and the bleachers painted, his fields will quickly be overrun with weeds and brush. He has to decide whether to spend the money to maintain the fields in the hope of finding a use for them, or let them go.
Now, I am a long time believer that government should never compete with private enterprise. Government should be used to provide services that are not easily performed by local businessmen. If, for example, a private ball field is providing recreation to the public at a profit, it is not proper for government to come in and use tax money to supplement a competitive program.
In my experience, the profit motive that drives private enterprise creates a far more efficient program than any government program. That means that the cost of operating the private field is less than that for the government enterprise. Therefore, if the government field is being leased at a lower price than the private field can afford, clearly the government project is being supplemented by tax money. In other words, you and I are paying tax money to support a softball program that has driven a private park out of business.
Our county government should be cooperating with private enterprise, not competing with it. Our recreation department ought to be maintaining a survey of private ball fields, rodeo arenas, horse shoe tournaments, dog shows, dance classes and other recreational sites and programs. Recreation department schedules and publications should include descriptions of private parks and schedules of events not sponsored by the department. The recreation department’s programs ought to be designed to augment and support these private programs, not to compete with them.
Recreation is a big business in Madison County. We have one of the best public recreation programs in the state. The new school system sports complex dramatically expands our recreation facilities and opportunities.
With all these government facilities, we must carefully guard our private parks and programs. Having a government agency dominate an entire area of our lives is not the American way!
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com

Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
August 4, 2004

A Moment With Margie

Here come the armadillos
There are various signs along our driveway, you know the yellow kind shaped like a caution sign that warn about dogs, cats and other critters crossing your path as you enter our yard. (There was a sign that said ‘monkey crossing’ at one point, but that’s another story.)
Recently my daughter Miranda bought two more for my birthday - one that proclaims “bear crossing” (a bear was spotted in our neighborhood last spring) and another that says “armadillo crossing.”
Armadillos in Madison County?
Seems that could be the case, as these unusual creatures have been spotted (usually dead on the side of the road) ever northward in Georgia for the past several years.
These weird-looking mammals with a shell on their back have always had a special fascination for me, I’m not sure why, maybe partially because I’ve yet to see one alive.
On all our trips to south Georgia I’m always on the look out for armadillos and I usually see several - of the road kill variety.
People are always telling me they see them, in the underbrush foraging in late evening, walking along the side of the road (probably right before they are hit) or coming into their campgrounds.
Biking around Jekyll Island, especially in the late evenings, I’m always on the look out for one - but to no avail.
A ranger on Cumberland Island said they are numerous and would be easy to spot - maybe for some, but not for me.
Now it seems I may at last come face to face with a living, breathing armadillo - in my own yard.
I keep hearing about their northward march, evidenced by road kill spotted closer and closer to northeast Georgia.
I heard they were in Morgan County last year. Then this spring, I was sure I spotted one (dead, of course) along the Athens perimeter.
I disregarded it, figuring the carcass was a turtle, or a possum and I’d just imagined I saw the telltale shell on it’s back.
I’ve even got my friends in on looking for armadillos. It’s a joke of mine (that I halfway believe) that I’ll have a good time at the beach if I spot at least one dead armadillo on the road on the way there.
My friend Shirley, my husband Charles and I spent some time looking for armadillos in Providence Canyon in southwest Georgia last fall.
We talked to a ranger there who showed us plenty of holes where they had been digging in the flower gardens and told us since they’re primarily nocturnal we should watch for them around twilight. We did, we even walked to the bottom of the canyon and looked around - no armadillo. (It could have been because Shirley was calling “here armadillo, here armadillo.”)
But a few weeks ago, another friend, Susan, left an interesting message on my answering machine - she’d spotted a dead armadillo on Hwy. 72 in Madison County.
“I knew you’d be interested..and we’ve heard for some time they’re headed this way,” the message said.
Now I’m excited, sort of.
Hey, if they really are here, maybe they’ll kill a few fire ants. And besides, I think they’re cute.
UGA’s Madison County Extension Service director Carl Varnadoe says he won’t dispute the alleged armadillo sighting in the county and he’s also not surprised by it. “I knew they’d get here, eventually,” Carl said. But so far, he’s received no reports about armadillos marauding in gardens and digging up plants. He also says if they come, he hopes there won’t be a lot of them because they’re primarily considered pests. They may kill a few bugs, like fireants, but he thinks the damage they’ll do to gardens and the like will offset any good they do.
So much for his enthusiasm.
According to the official armadillo website (yes, there is one) there are numerous breeds of aramadillos (armadillai?); the one that is headed to our area is the nine-banded armadillo. This creature is about cat-size and contrary to popular belief, cannot roll into a ball when threatened (not this type anyway). The “armadillo online” website proclaims itself “not your average speed bump on the information superhighway.”
Well said. If you’re interested, I found lots of stuff, including this website simply by googling the word “armadillo.”
By the way, I heard on a news show recently that armadillos have achieved the “status” of being the animal most killed by vehicles on American roads - a notoriety previously held by white tail deer.
Now that’s a dubious distinction, to say the least.
Oh well, even if I’m all alone, I intend to be excited the first time I open my front door and see a real live armadillo digging up one of Charles’s flowers. (Uh oh, did I say that?)
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.

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