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Archive for Wednesday, January 20, 1999

POLITICS, BASKETBALL MINGLE TO MAKE WEEK INTERESTING

January 20, 1999

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It was one of those seemingly quiet weeks in Baldwin City, but really there was plenty going on both in the meeting rooms and on the hardwood. Politics and basketball are usually strange bedfellows, but somehow they intertwined this week.

Probably the most interesting meeting occurred Thursday when city officials met with members of the auditing firm Schehrer, Bennett & Lowenthal. The firm has done Baldwin City's audit for years and council members wanted to review the process in the wake of the conviction of former City Clerk Penni Porter for misuse of city funds.

Throughout a two-hour session, Mayor Stan Krysztof and council members Marilyn Pearse and Lee Whaley had frank and open discussion with Tom Singleton and Julie Craig from the firm. In reviewing letters from the past three years concerning audits, it became clear how problems identified by the firm eventually became bigger through miscommunication from former city employees.

The council was told that the problems were being taken care of by former employees. As history revealed, they weren't.

Once the chronology of what had happened was worked through, the meeting moved toward avoiding the problems in the future. Internal controls have been strengthened, which Krysztof pointed to as the key item learned through the ordeal.

"Keep temptation away," said the mayor in summarizing the procedures now in place.

When the meeting concluded, it was clear that the healing had begun. No longer was a "scapegoat" being sought for why city funds wound up missing. The message was clear that it was time to move forward and leave the past behind.

Events the next two days were where basketball entered the mix. Friday night, the Baldwin Junior High School gym was packed to the rafters for the Baldwin High games with Gardner. Added into the mix was a performance by a group of 70 aspiring cheerleaders between the boys and girls games.

Baldwin High's cheerleaders had put on a clinic the week before for 70 elementary school-aged girls, and Friday's performance was the result. The response was tremendous as everyone loved the show that was put on.

While the crowd inside was big, the overflow in the parking lot pointed to the eventual need for additional parking around the high school/junior high complex. Where to put it? Well, the school owns the land where the current baseball fields are located north of the present parking lot.

So was it mere coincidence that the Recreation Task Force formed by Mayor Krysztof and the council met Saturday morning to tour possible locations for a possible "community center" and new ballfields?

Of course it was coincidence, but it sure showed the pressing need to address the situation.

Also by coincidence, Saturday marked the first games in the Baldwin City Recreation Commission's youth basketball program. In the program, about 300 youngsters play games in grade schools throughout the district.

It's a great deal. All during the week I heard different people mentioning that they had children playing Saturday. Maybe the schedule called for one child to play at Marion Springs in the morning and another at Baldwin Elementary in the afternoon. It was hectic, and they were looking forward to it.

I got a glimpse of the fun when I stopped by BES in the afternoon to shoot a few photos. There were third- and fourth-grade girls playing, and it was a hoot. Just ask Mayor Krysztof, who was in the stands rooting on one of his granddaughters.

It reminded me of when my children were playing youth basketball. The difference is, there wasn't a local program. Our schedules juggled different locations in Lawrence on different nights through the Biddy Ball league. It struck me how lucky we now have it in Baldwin to have basketball offered here.

It also points to additional pressing needs the task force is trying to find answers for. Baldwin is booming and with it are recreation needs. Baseball participation was up again last summer and there's been a huge response with basketball.

With the potential loss of the current ballfields looming, with space needs growing at the school complex, and with the expansion of recreation programs and the numerous other needs in the city (such as day care and senior citizen activities), it's becoming clearer that the task force has a big and important job.

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