Red Oak's basketball program grows

By Amelia Harper, Graphic Correspondent

Pat Griffin and Jim Fretz came Monday to Red Oak's regular business meeting to thank the town board and to present an update on the progress of the Red Oak Basketball program to which the town board awards an annual donation. Last year, Red Oak contributed roughly $9000 to the program: this year, it has budgeted more than $12,000 for the events.

Griffin said that the increase in costs were necessary to support a program that had grown significantly in size over the nearly 25 years since its inception. This year more than 320 students in grades K-8 are involved in the program which is currently in the midst of its season. In the past, the program was only offered to students up to the seventh grade. However, since Red Oak Middle School began allowing the use of its gym last year, the age group was extended.

Griffin explained that 193 boys and 131 girls were currently participating in the program. Last year, he said, the figure was only 260 total.

"Because we have so many kids this year, we had to extend the season as well as the number of games," Griffin said. Now, teams play 17 games on a typical Saturday in a season that runs 10 weeks long. Due to the influence and support of local PTA groups, teams are allowed to use both the Red Oak Elementary and Red Oak Middle School gyms free of charge.

"We appreciate the help that you have always given us," Griffin said to the Red Oak board on Monday. "Your money and the generosity of the schools in letting us use the gyms, allows us to hold down the cost of the program for participants." Participants are charged only $30 to participate in the program as opposed to the $60 or more typical for similar programs elsewhere in the county.

Griffin said that most participants are from the Red Oak area and flyers announcing the program are distributed to students at the Red Oak Elementary School. However, the program currently allows other children outside the area to participate if space is available.

In addition to the number of children involved, more than 100 adults also participate in the program as well, Griffin said. Many serve as volunteer coaches and assistant coaches, but some serve as paid referees, scorekeepers, and concession workers.

"It is a lot of work for everyone involved," Griffin said. But it is all about the kids. That is what we are here for."

Commissioners were also concerned about another issue affecting the youth of Red Oak: the current redistricting issue under consideration by the school board. Commissioner Lavell Langley, who is actively involved with parent's groups opposing the action, said that parents were considering taking legal action against the school board if the redistricting took place. Langley said that he wanted the support of the town board on the issue and had understood from past comments that the commissioners agreed with his position to support such an action.

Mayor Al Wester said that the town board did support the parent's opposition "morally," but did not think at this time that the town could participate in a lawsuit against the school board. Wester said that he had checked on the issue with the League of Municipalities, and that he had just discovered that it was currently debatable whether a town could legally take such action. Wester said that he was told that a similar situation was now occurring in another town where the town was seeking to sue the school board in a redistricting dispute, and that the Town of Red Oak would be watching closely to see how that action was judged by the courts.

In other business, commissioners discussed the recent addition of the Dollar General store which opened last month at the corner of Hwy. 43 and Old Carriage Road. In recent days, commissioners said, several people have complained that there was no buffer between the cemetery and the commercial structure. Mayor Wester said that he had understood that Dollar General had plans to install a six foot fence between the store and the cemetery, but was not sure when they planned to do that.

Despite the aesthetic criticisms, commissioners generally felt that the store was benefiting the community and noted the steady traffic to the store. "The store is already a big asset," said Commissioner Stanley Moore. "It is nice to not have to go out of town to get things that you need."

Commissioners also discussed future landscaping projects for the town. The town is currently taking bids for those who would like to cut grass for the town. Those who are interested should call Commissioner Stanley Moore at 443-4720 for more information.