Council votes to waive stadium fees for Ellwood Christian Academy

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Selma City Council voted to waive fees for Ellwood Christian Academy to play their home football games at Memorial Stadium.

The fee waiver will save the school $1,600 for four remaining home games, including this Friday night against A.L. Johnson.

Councilman Johnnie Leashore made the motion to waive the stadium fees, which was backed by Angela Benjamin, Michael Johnson, Sam Randolph and Jannie Thomas. Carl Bowline and Council President Corey Bowie voted against the waiver.

Councilwoman Susan Youngblood was absent from Tuesday’s meeting as she recovers from surgery, and Councilwoman Miah Jackson left before the vote was taken near the end of the meeting.

ECA athletic director Denisha Hendricks approached the council last week about waiving the fee. Hendricks said the school couldn’t afford to pay $400 per game and that school enrollment had dropped from 194 students last year to 120.

“Due to the decline in enrollment and the socio-economic level of the students — even though it is a private institution — we are requesting a fee waiver to utilize Memorial Stadium for the remainder of the season,” Hendricks said.

Ellwood also owes the city $1,200 for games from games from last season.

So far this season, the Eagles have played on the road and moved one home game to Keith High School to avoid the fee.

The school has homes matches scheduled this week and then future games against Notasulga, Autaugaville and county rival Southside Selma to end the season.

Council president Corey Bowie said he wanted to talk with Hendricks after the meeting to see if the city and school could come up with a way to generate the money.

Councilman Carl Bowline said he would donate money from his discretionary fund to help with the fees.

However, Leashore said the issue should be discussed during the business part of the meeting.

“She’s in need of this service on Friday. Therefore, I do respect the president wanting to converse with Dr. Hendricks, but I’m going back to the request from our work session and requesting my colleagues support her with this initiative,” Leashore said.

Bowline said the waiver sets a dangerous precedent for the city. Earlier this year, the council didn’t take up a request from Selma High and R.B. Hudson Middle School to waive the fee.

“The precedent it sets is a slippery slope,” Bowline said. “Everyone who uses the stadium will expect to use it for free.”

Bowline said the $400 charged doesn’t even cover the lights used during a game and that Selma High School pays to use the stadium.

“Selma High pays their bills, and they have every year,” Bowline said. “It was a terrible move to set a precedent to waive the fee for a private school when we charge the public school. I think the council is going to regret it.”