By David Meade
The future for youth recreation for the Pelzer -Williamston (Palmetto area) program has been the topic of considerable discussion and angst recently, especially in Pelzer. The Town of Pelzer has been struggling with a strained financial situation and considering whether they could continue to fund a recreation program that was losing $23,000, while at the same time looking into providing services, primarily police protection, for a new town with no tax base.
The towns of Pelzer and Williamston have provided separate recreation programs for area children that combined under the same director two years ago. The Pelzer-Williamston recreation program has approximately 330 participants.
Currently it is a loosely coordinated combined program with part-time funding coming from both towns for a part-time director (B. J. Tompkins) who is overseeing it. Pelzer operates under the Williamston charter for the program. Williamston offers baseball and softball. Pelzer offers basketball and football.
The two programs were loosely combined about two years ago after the retirement of Williamston’s long time rec director Dale Martin, and then his assistant turned director who also retired.
B.J. Tompkins, who has run the Pelzer program for about ten years, was asked by Williamston Mayor Mack Durham to help out with the Williamston program and an agreement was made.
Pelzer continued offering their program paying Tompkins $12,100. Williamston was paying him $7500 to run their program for baseball and softball including signups, scheduling, and oversight. The Pelzer ball teams were brought into the youth league under the Willliamston charter.
Pelzer Mayor Steve McGregor said he has spoken with Mayor Durham about a proposal for the combined program. “We are looking at how things can continue,” he said. He said he plans to meet with Durham soon to further discuss the situation.
Mayor Durham told The Journal this week that he would like to see a community recreation program and plans to propose that Pelzer and West Pelzer both contribute to the program, with Williamston covering most of the cost. He said he has also spoken with County Administrator Rusty Burns about receiving some funding on the county level.
“I want to do everything to keep this positive,” he said.
Durham said he has spoken with Tompkins about keeping his position with Williamston and the program could continue much as it has in the past if supplemented by Pelzer, West Pelzer and the county, with his part-time salary staying the same.
“I really want to do all we can to keep the program going,” Durham said. “Recreation is important to keep in our downtown.”
Durham said he is committed to continue to offer recreation for the area “with hopes of some funds from our neighboring municipalities and county, so we can charge the same fees for all our children.”