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The county government's annual picnic, an employee staple for more than a decade, has been canceled for lack of interest -- done in, it seems, by low morale and increased costs.

The break-even point was 250 to 300 persons, said Maggie Brown, assistant to the county's chief administrative officer. By Friday, fewer than 200 people had signedup. Last year, more than 1,000 attended. The picnic was to have beenheld Sept. 29 at Centennial Park.

"They eliminated some things and raised the price. This is the first year I was not planning on going," said M. Patricia Britt, an 18-year veteran of the county Public Works Department. Britt has attended the picnics every year for the past 12 or 13 years.

"My attitudeis not the best now anyway," she said.

Like other county employees, Britt did not receive a raise in this year's austere budget. She had expected to lose her cost-of-living raise but initially thought the county would pay merit and longevity increases.

Instead, all raises were eliminated, and the county laid off 40 additional workers.

Higher costs and a pared-down menu added to employees' lack of interest in this year's picnic.

Last year, employees paid $6 each for themselves, close friends and family members age 12 and over to sharea spread of pit-cooked beef, hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, cornon the cob, ice cream, beer, wine, sodas and an assortment of salads.

This year, the cost was raised to $8 a person for everyone age 6and over. The pit beef was eliminated, and beer and wine were to be sold on a per-drink basis.

"In the end, it came down to the money," Britt said.

"We felt there really should have been a price breakthis year, not a price increase. My children don't eat very much, soit's almost like paying for them to play in the park."

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