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Possibility of cutting baseball program in Surfside uncovers town's major financial issues

People across Surfside Beach are flooding town council inboxes with emails about saving youth baseball. (WPDE)

People across Surfside Beach are flooding town council inboxes with emails about youth baseball.

The community found out that council had talked about cancelling funding to the program or even selling the land where the field sits to make money. It was all brought up in a November 2016 meeting.

Councilman Mark Johnson said in an email that council had agreed to have the land appraised, but had not made any official decisions about what to do with it or the program.

According to the meeting minutes from November, the Town of Surfside is having some major financial issues because of Hurricance Matthew and damage to the pier, plus beach erosion. Council members proposed ways to cut costs.

The baseball and softball leagues are a program built on 40 years of memories.

"It means a lot to all of us,” Jeff George, the Vice President of the Surfside Beach Youth Sports Association, said.

Now, he and other parents fear the program is a goner.

"Baseball is the America's pastime and my kids grew up watching it. I grew up watching it,” Don Brook, a coach and parent, said. “It's just something that's gone down through the family."

At the end of each year, the parents and board members of Surfside Beach Youth Sports Association check in with town council to go over the next year’s program.

"When we get no responses back about anything, we started looking into it," George said.

That’s when they found the November meeting minutes talking about shutting it all down.

“I just really feel like it would be a shame in this day and age, with the struggles that youth have to do good in school and stay out of trouble, that something like this would go away,” Brian Pedrick, another board member and parent, said.

According to the November council minutes, the city is bracing to make hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cuts to balance the 2017 budget.

Council members talked about raising taxes or borrowing money. They also discussed finding ways to sell the field or repurpose it to make it profitable.

"People come to Surfside because it's supposed to be a family friendly town. Well, by then just getting rid of all the youth programs or this or that doesn't show they really care about the families and the friends,” George explained.

They even say they offered to help clean up after the hurricane, but were told it was a liability issue.

"You know, trying to use the chalk to chalk the fields--couldn't even get the town to allow us to use the chalk for the fields,” he said.

The little leaguers say they’re worried about what they’ll miss, like friends and all the fun.

There is no word on what can legally be done with the land, but it’s certain what would be missed.

"What we look at out here is where we can help out the children. We're helping out everybody,” George said.

Nothing they could build in its place would hold the value of the character the field builds.

As of air time on Thursday, we had not heard back from the mayor or town administrator. We reached out to all of the Surfside Town Councilmembers and heard back via email from two.

One of them was Councilwoman Julie Samples who said, in part, "I am a supporter of recreation programs associated with the town and would like to see us do more. Do not know how my fellow council members feel but believe them to be open-minded on many issues."

There is a town council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m. Parents and people across Surfside are planning to head out in droves to show their support for the baseball and softball program.

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