Youth group ask supervisors for financial help

Published 11:32 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

About a dozen fathers took off from work Monday morning to appear before the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors asking for help in upgrading the athletic fields used by the Pearl River Central Athletic Association.

“Let’s just put it out there,” said Ed Peckinpaugh. “We are here to ask for money, help, whatever we can get.”

Peckinpaugh told supervisors that the athletic fields in McNeill were in disrepair with the fields needing refinishing, a lack of adequate stadium stands for spectators, and have deplorable bathrooms. “The utilities are killing us, the stands need painting, and we do not have enough helmets for the kids,” Peckinpaugh said. “Then there is fertilizer, paint and fencing. It costs $10,000 just to maintain.”

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Peckinpaugh, who has a young son starting T-ball this year, said the organization needed fencing around the fields to “keep out the unwanted,” and keep the kids from wandering off. “There are a lot of beer cans,” said Peckinpaugh. “You know what people do at night.”

As for the bathrooms, the father told the supervisors that he had the displeasure of taking his son to the restroom recently. “They are in deplorable condition,” said Peckinpaugh, adding that insurance alone costs the association more than $1,400 annually and the cost of umpires was around $2,500 a year.

“Once we have everything up and running, we can maintain it,” said Peckinpaugh.

Sandy Kane Smith, supervisor for District 5, said he sympathized with the parents, and was glad to see someone ready to step up to the plate and take action. “The majority of my district plays there,” said Smith. “I feel the utilities and canopies are the county’s responsibility.”

Smith pledged his entire $10,000 spending fund for the organization, adding that the first, most important thing he saw that the organization needed was a Dumpster. “I want to get you all a Dumpster.”

County administrator Adrian Lumpkin said that the county had mowed the fields for the organization in the past and that they would continue. “We did mow the fields last year and will mow this year,” said Lumpkin, adding that the person responsible for the mowing had recently undergone knee surgery, causing the delay.

Board president and supervisor for District 1, Anthony Hales, said that each supervisor has $10,000 annually to spend on their district in areas with a need, and although the board would be willing to help for now, he would rather see a long term solution. “We have the Poplarville Athletic Association, the Pearl River association and the Picayune association,” said Hales. “What would I like to see is permanent funding for recreation.”

A permanent committee to oversee local athletic groups would enable the county to seek state and federal grants for the organizations. “I’m thinking long term,” said Hales. “If we form a county athletic board maybe we can qualify for grants.”

Hales said such a committee would require a commitment from not only a couple of supervisors, but from area residents. He suggested the parents also become more pro-active and take personal control over some of the issues, such as the bathrooms. “You may have to take bleach and a pressure washer in after every game,” said Hales.

Association president David Blansett told the board that the organization let any child play whether they could afford it or not. “If the kids can’t afford it, we’ll absorb the cost,” Blansett said. “But we need help in one aspect or another.” He reiterate what Peckinpaugh had said, noting that he did not care if the help was in the form of money or in services.

“We need help with our facilities, we need help to get our fence repaired, we just need some kind of help money-wise, equipment wise, man-wise,” Blansett said. “We’re not just wanting to lay back and let someone else do the work, we’re willing to do the work.”

Hudson Holliday, supervisor for District 3, said he agreed the organization needed help. “With all we have done to clean up Pearl River county, this is important too,” Holliday said. “And a clean environment means a safe environment and that means recreation areas too.”

Holliday agreed to commit some of his funds as well, but he did not say how much.

Hales said after the meeting that from what he understood, each supervisor would probably earmark some of their funds for the organization, but that the parents were going to need to raise funds separately as well since they were talking of $10- to $20,000 for the repairs and maintenance. “They may need to approach (various businesses and organizations) and see if they can get some money from them,” Hales said, adding that the county had a responsibility to all the children in the county. “I want to see the same quality of service for kids through-out the county.”