Pelzer considers whether to continue offering recreation

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During a work session Tuesday, Pelzer Town Council members raised questions about operations and funding of the Pelzer Recreation Department. The discussion came up after Pelzer Town Clerk Heather Holcombe gave a summary of the expenses involved in operating the town’s various activities, as well as the expenses that would still exist if those programs were reduced or terminated altogether.

“If you think the town will save $158,000 by shutting the recreation department down, that’s wrong. About a hundred thousand dollars of those expenses involved things like benefits and phone services and equipment – these things were spread across various accounts to spread the costs to the various departments percentage wise. If we close the rec department, those expenses will still exist. They’ll just be spread across fewer departments.”

The current arrangement with the town of Williamston came under scrutiny, with questions being asked about the arrangement that Pelzer Recreation Director B.J. Tompkins currently enjoys. He receives a salary from Pelzer for his role in their athletic programs, and also receives a part time salary from Williamston.

Several council members expressed their views on whether or not to continue the recreation department.

Councilman Will Ragland and Councilwoman Kimberly Wilson agreed that the department should be given a budget , while Mayor McGregor made a strong case for “taking care of what we already have.”

He described the gym as a venue, and recommended using some of the town’s estimated $24,000 in hospitality tax revenues to refurbish the gym.

Ragland reminded the Council that the key issue in the eyes of many voters is the establishment of police protection. “If we can achieve that during our first terms as a Council, without raising taxes, I for one will consider it a tremendous success.”

Somewhat stymied and frustrated by Tompkins’ absence from the workshop, the Council asked West to call him.

Tompkins responded and joined the session a few minutes later. A couple of items of information became clear during the subsequent conversation.

Tompkins explained that the fields are not in good condition, and that the restroom facilities have not functioned in three years. A sewer problem sometimes results in leaks that can affect the fields. The concession stand is not open or operated at this time.

He pointed out that the vast majority of children who participate in the programs do not live in Pelzer, but come from outlying areas in the county. Of the almost three hundred fifty children currently signed up for baseball and softball, no more than twenty live in town.

It also became obvious that the two towns have no formal or written agreement concerning the arrangement that both are currently operating their athletic programs under.

Tompkins was noncommittal about the idea of being given a specific budget to operate on, saying that he would be willing to try, but it didn’t seem like the best idea to him. Currently, the department operates at a deficit of approximately $10,000.

The workshop format does not allow a body to convene in order to conduct formal business; no votes can be taken.

For that reason, if no other, the status of the Pelzer recreational department remains unchanged at this time.