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America Legion Post 30 asks for fee waiver during baseball tournaments at Eames Park

Veterans group tells Albany commissioners tournaments will have $150,000-$200,000 economic impact

G.C. Croft, representing American Legion Post 30, asks the Albany City Commission Tuesday to waive fees for use of Paul Eames Park for summer Legion baseball tournaments. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

G.C. Croft, representing American Legion Post 30, asks the Albany City Commission Tuesday to waive fees for use of Paul Eames Park for summer Legion baseball tournaments. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

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Veterans from American Legion Post 30 sit in the audience during Tuesday’s Albany City Commission work session at the downtown Government Center. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — The Albany City Commission tabled discussion Tuesday morning of a request by American Legion Post 30 officials to waive charges for use of the city-run Paul Eames Baseball Complex during a pair of tournaments the Legion has planned this summer.

Post 30’s G.C. Croft told commissioners Legion tournaments conducted since the veterans group’s 15- to 19-year-old boys baseball program was initiated almost two decades ago have generated more than $14 million in economic impact for the city of Albany.

“We’ve done pretty good for the city over the years,” Croft said. “And these two tournaments are going to have from a $150,000 to a $200,000 impact. I don’t see where the city should charge us to have these tournaments.”

City Manager James Taylor suggested that since the Legion receives all concessions money and gate receipts from its tournaments and is charged only “the going rate of $100 a day,” the cost should not be a significant hardship.

Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Rashelle Beasley told commissioners her agency has a fund that issues grants to help defray the cost of sporting events held in Albany. The grants, Beasley said, are tied to hotel room usage.

“Where does the money for that program come from?” Taylor asked Beasley. When she replied, “The hotel-motel tax,” Taylor asked, “And where does that money come from?” Beasley said, “From y’all.”

Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell suggested tabling the discussion until more information about the costs associated with the use of Eames Park is available to the commission.

Postell also fired a shot at the citizens who had “abandoned downtown for the westside” but had held on to their “sentimentality.”

“We’ve got a lot of sentimental people who left downtown and took their sentimentality to the westside,” Postell said during Downtown Manager Aaron Blair’s abbreviated State of Downtown presentation. “They destroyed downtown, and now they want us to restore it.”

Postell’s comment referenced ongoing efforts to repurpose the historic Albany Theatre on North Jackson Street. Blair told the commission efforts by the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Athority to restore the historic theater had taken a backseat to downtown projects being discussed by the private sector.

The commission’s newest members, Ward III’s B.J. Fletcher and Ward II’s Bobby Coleman, addressed specific concerns they had about the downtown district. Fletcher called on the board to support her ongoing efforts to charge the owners of abandoned downtown buildings who refuse to improve their properties a fee, while Coleman called on road improvements at the Broad Avenue underpass.

“Y’all talk about coming downtown, but you have to get there,” the Ward II commissioner said. “And to get there from the eastside, a lot of people have to use that underpass. With all those potholes, that place is a safety hazard.”

Citizens Advisory Board Chairwoman Mary Ligon said that group, after a number of fact-finding meetings, recommended the city adapt an ordinance suggested by the Academy of Model Aeronautics to control the use of model airplanes within the city limits.

“We’ve done the cats and dogs, now we’ll look at the birds,” Ligon quipped as she started her presentation. “We took into consideration the rights of all citizens in the community and recommend approving an ordinance that includes stipulations that model airplanes weigh 2 pounds or under, are quiet in operation and are incapable of speeds greater than 60 mph.”

When Ligon, in response to a question from Postell, said the planes would be allowed to fly only as far as the operator’s sightline, Postell argued that people’s sightlines differed so her suggestion was “a hypothetical.”

Ligon later mentioned that suggested AMA regulations would allow for model airplane flight only in parks of a certain size, including Hilsman Park, Festival Park and MLK Park. The Ward VI commissioner again took exception.

“That’s in my ward,” he said of MLK Park. “The people in Ward VI don’t want those planes flying over their houses. How are you going to include a park in Ward VI when nobody wants those planes there?” Ligon explained that MLK Park was one of three parks in the city that met AMA’s suggested size restrictions, but Postell demanded that the Southeast Albany park be removed from any ordinance that allowed model airplanes.

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard told Postell to make a motion requesting such action, which was seconded and approved by the board without further discussion.