Anybody see a tympani lying around?

Published 2:57 am Wednesday, October 30, 2002

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP - Managing Editor
I don't remember how old I was, but I was pretty young when I sat at the Christmas tree and opened a very special gift. What lied beneath the crisp red wrapping paper that year was a true gem - a Wilson Duke III football. It was my first real leather football. I studied every dimple in the leather and carefully examined the artistry that was required to accomplish such lace work. I don't claim to know much about the science of the Duke III, but the spirals were tight and lob passes were like rainbows. The ball was a touchdown waiting to happen. With the reception of this special gift, we could now force my cousin's slick and worn-out "Earl Campbell" football into retirement.
A few days after Christmas, we were outside, throwing the ball around or perhaps engaged in a game. We finished playing when, one-by-one, participants were called to supper. I don't recall, but I imagine when we got down to only a couple of players, we put the ball aside and ran off to other endeavors. Whatever happened, it wasn't until the next day that I realized I did not know where my Duke III was. I returned to the scene of the previous day's contest, but the ball was not there. It was lost, or more convenient yet, stolen!
It is funny how things go missing sometimes. Some of us lose keys, wallets and even money on a regular basis.
But, apparently, it's not just individuals losing things these days. According to an annual report of state losses for fiscal year 2002, state agencies lost vehicles, computers, cameras, printers, four-wheelers, radios, golf carts, air conditioners, typewriters and cell phones, just to name a few. In all, the report says that state agencies lost 479 items that originally cost taxpayers almost $2 million. The cost for these items after depreciation is figured at $579,184.
One state office, the Alabama Education TV Commission, did have a decent excuse. A fire took 38 items that accounted for almost half of the value of all lost items.
Okay, fires happen. But, how do you lose $2,000 computers. These aren't even trim notebook computers, but actual desktop CPUs. The Department of Education lost 19 CPUs during the fiscal year.
The items on the list are marked as lost, stolen or destroyed, so when it says lost, it actually means lost.
The most absent-minded agency would be the Department of Human of Resources. They accounted for 140 items that were either lost, destroyed or stolen that totaled $335,730 in acquisition cost. They reported a stolen PC notebook, CPU and two Thinkpads. They "lost" several computer terminals, CPUs, a camcorder, a $10,000 printer, three servers and seven expensive devices known as Z-stations.
The length of DHR's list certainly stands out, but at least they didn't give away deadly weapons. The medical examiner's office reported a pistol stolen … that's right, the medical examiner's office. Pardon and Paroles had two pistols stolen, Forestry reported a stolen shotgun and Public Safety reported eight stolen weapons. Even the Ethics Commission reported a stolen pistol.
Then, there are those items that just stand out. The School of Fine Arts "lost" a tympani drum and a dishwasher. DHR lost a "desk - executive." Medicaid lost a telephone system … not a telephone, but a telephone system. Public Health lost an incubator unit.
In a production report released with the state losses report, it states that only .04 percent of items "lost" were never found. That's amazing … I looked all over for that Duke III and it never did show up.

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