TUSCUMBIA — A coach of a Willie Green youth football league team said Monday he is disappointed the City Council hasn’t replied to the league’s request to come under the umbrella of the city.
Joel Benard Freeman made the comments during the council work session Monday, four months after approaching the council with the request.
“We never got an answer,” Freeman said. “I couldn’t see why it couldn’t be done. The city of Tuscumbia had a great chance to do something that would be good for our neighborhood.”
Freeman said he specifically is upset about the lack of action from Councilman George Johnson Sr., who represents the district that includes the Willie Green Center.
The core of the league’s players live in Johnson’s district, which is the city’s only majority-black district, Freeman said.
Freeman added that Johnson did not treat some representatives of the league well when they asked to use the Willie Green Center for the league’s annual football banquet.
Johnson, who is a former coach of the Willie Green team, fired back at the statements, telling Freeman he is wrong about what took place during the meeting with the representatives.
“You weren’t at the meeting,” Johnson said. “You didn’t know what was going on.”
As the volume between the two men escalated, Mayor Bill Shoemaker stood and called for order, saying the discussion is over.
Earlier in the discussion, Freeman said the city is neglecting the Willie Green Center gymnasium and park.
“Go take a look at that park,” he said. “I’m 50 years old, and that’s the same playground equipment that’s been there since I was a kid. I don’t think there is any other park in Tuscumbia that you would allow to look like ours looks.”
Shoemaker pointed out the city spent $12,500 on tables and chairs for the center within the past 90 days. He said Tuscumbia also recently received a grant that allowed them to put new fencing around the park.
“There has been money spent there,” the mayor said. He added it’s not “out of the question” to supply additional funds toward the park, but, like in all city matters, the council operates on a tight budget and funding is difficult to find.
Freeman asked the council why the Willie Green program is not part of the Tuscumbia city league. Shoemaker responded the lack of funding is preventing that.
Tuscumbia has a football league that is under the authority of the department, so Willie Green either could be a second program or the two could combine.
Freeman said that at one time, four teams played in the Tuscumbia league, but two dropped out. The city decided it could not have a league with two teams so it dropped Willie Green. He was a 12-year-old player at the time.
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.