WHITMIRE — The number one concern of Mayor Billy Hollingsworth and Whitmire Town Council on Tuesday was financial information concerning the town’s recreation department.
“How do we finance it and still stay on budget?” Hollingsworth asked the council.
Councilwoman Debbie Harris asked Recreation Director Joe Dillard when the upcoming basketball season would begin. Dillard said basketball games begin in January and February but participants can begin practicing when they like.
Dillard said his plans were to start opening up the city gym a day or two every week, swapping the different teams out for practice time to see how many were interested in practicing early.
Councilman Dwight Lane said he was concerned that teams from the city of Newberry would not travel to Whitmire to play sports. Dillard said that although that might be the case, he had spoken with Clinton about the possibility of playing sports with their teams.
Hollingsworth said a major concern for their recreation department is the lack of fees paid by kids that actually participate in recreational sports.
“We’ve had teams in the past where only half of them paid, but all of them played,” Hollingsworth said. “We can’t keep continuing to run a free program, or we won’t be able to have a recreation director.”
Dillard said approximately 40 students hadn’t paid for football yet, with the season now completed. Dillard told council he paid himself for some of them to play, with other money donated.
“We’re in the hole about $4,300, including all regular fees,” Dillard said.
Dillard said he would never turn down a child because of their inability to pay.
“People used to sponsor a whole team, but with economic conditions, they just can’t anymore,” Hollingsworth said.
Councilwoman Chrystal Harsha suggested spending less on jerseys for each sport, which would allow less money to be spent, and participants to keep their jerseys. Harsha also suggested older teens might want to turn in their old jerseys to be re-used within the department.
Hollingsworth told Dillard to compile a list between now and the beginning of next year of a potential recreation program and proposals for the next year for council to go through at a specified meeting.
“At the beginning of each sport, we’ll sit down to discuss the financials,” Hollingsworth said. “If fees need to be raised, then that’s what we’ll do. If the money doesn’t come in, we may have to decide to cancel that particular sport.”
Dillard agreed to compile a list for council to discuss next year at a designated meeting.
“I believe we can make it (the department) self-sufficient, but at the same time, it’s going to take some help to generate interest,” Hollingsworth said.
Elyssa Parnell can be reached at 803-276-0625, ext. 108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.