Hot dog ban takes bite out of leagues

Youths may pay more to play due to limits on snack sales at games

January 07, 1999|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Carroll County youths who play recreational sports might have to pay more than usual this spring to be in the lineup.

The county Health Department has asked recreation councils to comply with regulations that would limit items sold at many of Carroll's concession stands. In some cases, the councils would be limited to selling prepackaged foods.

No more hot dogs. Nachos also would be out.

In Union Bridge, the change is expected to translate into less revenue. As a result, youths will have to buy their pants this spring if they want to play baseball or softball. The pants cost $8 to $15, said Nancy Owings, community coordinator.

"It's going to have a major impact," said Owings, who expects about 200 youths to register for softball and baseball. "We will not be making as much money as we used to."

In the past, the recreation council made a profit of $1,200 to $1,500 each year, she said.

The Health Department action was prompted by a telephone call last fall from the operator of a concession stand who wanted to be sure he was purchasing the proper equipment for the facility.

During the conversation, it became clear that volunteers at the stand were preparing food on site, which requires a license from the Health Department. The stand was not licensed.

"While discussing the issue it also came out that there are stands all over the county like this," said Andrea Hanley, county supervisor of community hygiene. She would not disclose the identity of the caller.

"If we know about them, we license them," Hanley said. "We just didn't know about them."

She said her main concern was a lack of running water at many facilities and the absence of commercial equipment. Many recreation councils depend on donations for items such as microwaves and electric grills.

"In order to handle an open product, they must have hot and cold water," said Hanley. "Running water is needed so that employees can wash their hands and wash, rinse and sanitize the utensils and equipment."

The equipment must meet the standards of the National Sanitation Foundation or their equivalent, she said. Unlike many household appliances, such commercial equipment can be properly cleaned and meets strict temperature requirements.

The county Department of Recreation, Parks and Facilities is hoping to have the concession stands it uses in compliance with the health regulations by the time baseball season begins.

"We haven't set a deadline," said Jeff Degitz, who heads the Bureau of Recreation and oversees the county's 18 recreation councils. "The Health Department is being very supportive. They made it very clear that they are not trying to shut anyone down. They are being very helpful."

The Health Department has agreed to contact the operators of each concession stand and inspect the facilities. The county's recreation councils operate about two dozen concession stands, Degitz said.

"I'm sure there may be some frustration, especially among volunteers who need to make adjustments to what they sell and, in some cases, update their equipment," Degitz said. "But the recreation councils are very supportive of this. They understand the necessity of doing this."

The impact of the code enforcement will vary throughout the county. In Taneytown, it is not expected to cause a hardship.

"Our fees won't go up," said Keith Shepherd, who oversees Taneytown's softball program. "The loss of the snack shack means we lose maybe $400, tops. We only operate the stand during the last week of the season, for the tournament."

Linda Silfee, community coordinator for Deer Park Recreation Council, said she is not sure what effect enforcement of the health codes will have on the more than 1,400 youths who participate in the council's programs.

"We expect that it will impact us, but we're not sure yet in what areas," Silfee said. "We're just beginning to organize for the coming season."

Deer Park Recreation Council also is doing its best to comply with Health Department regulations, she added.

"We're trying to get hot and cold running water," she said.

Pub Date: 1/07/99

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