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By Ben Munro
The Madison County Journal
July 28, 1999

In Other Words
Summertime memories
I can still hear the distinct sound that old yellow wiffle bat produced when I made just the right contact with that awkward plastic ball.
Slap! the bat would go as that wiffle ball sailed over the old backyard fence.
"There goes number 54, fellas!" I would triumphantly announce, as I absurdly exaggerated my current backyard-wiffle ball home run statistics to my brother and our neighborhood friends.
"Whatever!" someone would ring out in protest. "That ball was five feet foul and you know it."
Tempers would then flare, the insults would be hurled and the lines would be drawn. But in the end - as many controversial calls in the neighborhood sports world of a 10-year-old would be remedied - we instated the classic "do-over" rule for the sale of harmony.
Oh, the trials and tribulations of a 10-year-old in the summertime.
Somehow we never knew how good we had it.
And so these days as I drive around the county and pass a group of boys playing a good old-fashioned game of wiffle ball, I can't help but turn back the pages and reflect on the lazy summertime days when life's biggest controversies involved whether you were safe or out at that old tree that served as third base.
The summer of 1989 marked such a time when I had not a care in the world - my life consisting of food, water, sleep and, most importantly, baseball.
I was living in Jacksonville, Fla., and everybody in the neighborhood was usually up for a backyard game of wiffle ball. And so with nothing better to do, we wasted those hot Florida summer days away in the yard, hitting, catching and throwing the wiffle ball in heated competition as the constant buzz of the cicadas and the sounds of the sprinklers filled the intensely humid afternoon air.
Palm trees marked the foul lines. You pegged guys with the ball to get them out. There were no balls or called strikes. If the ball went over the fence into a less-than-friendly neighbor's yard, the game was simply over. And on more than one occasion, neighborhood moms had to intervene if the arguing got too intense.
If you had an odd number of people on a team, you used the all-time pitcher rule. If you didn't have enough guys on your squad to supply a base runner on every base, you simply instated the "ghost man rule" - a ghost man could advance only as many bases as the batter did.
You made do with what you had all in the name of backyard competition.
And when the game was over and arguments subsided and everyone was friends again, it was time to get down to the "real business," time to go to the bargaining table and negotiate deals with our most sacred possessions - our baseball cards, which made up the bulk of our expenses in our "complex" world.
And these players that we watched and collected the cards of were larger than life to us.
For me, the then cellar-dwelling Atlanta Braves were my idols. TBS filled my summer nights as I watched the Braves invent new ways to lose in the pre-Turner Field, Javier Lopez, Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux days.
But I would faithfully defend my team with my life when the fair-weather fan neighborhood kids would taunt my beloved last-place squad.
"Just wait and see," I would boldly predict to the naysayers as I would prove to be quite a prophetic 10-year-old.
Yes, it was all kids' stuff, but serious business to us at the time in the world we made for ourselves.
But nothing stays the same and as time moved on, things changed. People moved away (like we did). School got tougher. Girls soon started to mess with your head. You traded your bike for a car. You got a job. Things like SAT scores and college applications came into the picture and all those lazy baseball-filled summer days became but a distant memory.
And so now, as I look back 10 years older, I can't but laugh at the way things used to be.
It was a simpler time, when your world was where your feet or bike would take you, when we were all sure we were going to make the major leagues, where mere games constituted all your time, when your responsibilities were feeding the dog and cleaning your room, when everything was free and you took it for granted, when nobody even gave a thought or cared about growing up.
And as life moves on, it's funny how those simple times can be the experiences you miss the most.
en Munro is a reporter for The Madison County Journal.

Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
July 28, 1999

Frankly Speaking
BOC must avoid
even the appearance of wrongdoing
In the present climate of distrust of politicians, augmented by the public's displeasure about the antics of the Madison County Board of Commissioners, that old line about avoiding "even the appearance of wrongdoing" must apply. That is why I have decided that the board did the right thing at a called meeting on Monday, July 18.
The E-911 is attempting to purchase two emergency generators for the county's transmission towers. When they ran ads in local papers seeking bids on the generators, they received only one bid, from Perry Plumbing and Electronics of Danielsville. When the committee presented this bid to the Board of Commissioners at their July 12 meeting, commissioner Bruce Scogin insisted that county policy requires three bids and asked that the committee run new ads in an effort to obtain additional bids. The board voted 3 to 2 in favor of the motion.
The E-911 board met on July 15, three days later, and voted unanimously to delay running new ads and seek a special meeting of the board of commissioners asking that they reconsider the previous vote and award the purchase to Mr. Perry.
Commissioner Scogin took a strong position on this action at the called meeting: "You do not have the authority to delay or refuse to follow the instructions of this Board," he said.
Let me say here that I have the highest respect for Marc Perry. He is an excellent technician. His previous work for the county has been very satisfactory, and his previous bids have often been the lowest received. I have no doubts that his bid was reasonable, and the work would have been professionally performed.
Now, back to that "appearance of wrongdoing." The E-911 committee includes one member of the board of commissioners, Mr. Nelson Nash, and Mr. Dale Perry, brother of Marc Perry. The minutes show that the vote to delay implementing the board's decision to re-advertise the bids was unanimous. If this is correct, Mr. Nash voted against the decision of the Board of Commissioners, of which he is a member. And Mr. Dale Perry voted to seek approval of a single bid for his brother without following the Board's instructions to seek more bids.
The minutes did not identify the votes of individual members. It simply shows a unanimous vote. The vote by Mr. Perry, if he did vote, was clearly a conflict of interest. That gives an appearance of wrongdoing.
The vote by Mr. Nash, if he did vote, is more disturbing. All members of the board of commissioners must take care to conduct themselves in a manner that does not increase doubt about their ability and intentions. Once the board makes a decision, all members must support that decision whether they voted for it or not. Mr. Nash contributed to continuing doubt about the board when he voted to delay or ignore its instructions.
I realize that the E-911 system needs those generators. But they have had time to plan for them before. There is no need to ignore county policy, or try to avoid directions from the board of commissioners in seeking these generators. The BOC did right to refuse to change its original votes To regain the respect of the citizens of Madison County, they have to make an extra effort to get things right.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal.

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