Festival, chamber funds cut; No money for softball league
By Angela Harne
Sunday, June 10, 2018
WINTERVILLE — The town of Winterville’s proposed 2018-19 fiscal year budget includes $66,485 for non-town agencies, but cuts funding to the Watermelon Festival by $25,000 and to the chamber of commerce by $5,000.
The Winterville Town Council tackled the allocation amounts near the end of a four-hour budget workshop May 30. The board is expected to vote on the budget Monday.
The Watermelon Festival committee requested $50,000 for the 2019 festival. The festival allocation has doubled in recent years from the typical $25,000, and several council members suggested a return to the traditional amount would help fund other agency requests.
Councilman Tony Moore made a motion to allocate $25,000, which Johnny Moye and Veronica Roberson supported. It passed 3-2 with Mark Smith and Ricky Hines opposed.
Moore said he supported the cut because the festival began charging for its Saturday evening concert.
Moye suggested the council allocate $5,000 to the Winterville Senior Citizens Club and $5,000 to the Senior Adult Fellowship.
Smith made a motion to allocate each senior citizens club $3,500, which Councilman Ricky Hines seconded. It passed 5-0.
The Winterville Chamber of Commerce requested $20,000.
“I have a few concerns,” said Mayor Doug Jackson. “The chamber has increased its membership fees and the town gives them office space and a phone free of charge.
“If they were to rent space it would cost a minimum of $1,500 a month. The chamber does good work, don’t get me wrong, but they give the Watermelon Festival $500 to $1,000 and pay the director a salary of $22,000.”
Hines made a motion to allocate $15,000, which Moye seconded. The motion passed 3-1-0 with Moore opposed. Roberson recused herself due to recently receiving the chamber’s Citizen of the Year award.
The council voted 4-1 with Moore opposed to allocate $5,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Plain-Jack Minges Unit. They voted unanimously to allocate $4,485 to the Pitt County Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program.
The council also voted 3-2 with Moore and Smith opposed to allocate $10,000 to Pitt County Rebuilding Together.
“We shouldn’t be using taxpayers’ money to fix people’s homes,” Smith said.
The Pitt County Girls Softball requested an allocation of $10,000. Moore made a motion to allocate the requested funding amount, which Smith seconded, followed by discussion.
“My objection is we should have our own program,” Roberson said.
Smith said, “We tried that.”
The town attempted to host a summer softball league for teenaged females several summers ago. Only 12 girls signed up for the program.
“I don’t see the benefit when we have our own recreation department,” Hines said, referring to the $10,000 allocation to an outside recreation league. “I can’t see giving them $10,000 … yes, the tournaments are in Winterville, but they stay in Greenville sleeping at the hotels and eating in Greenville’s restaurants.
“They are only in Winterville to play. The $10,000 we don’t get back.”
Moore’s motion failed 2-3 with Hines, Moye and Roberson opposed.
The softball allocation was revisited Thursday at the start of day two of the budget workshop. Nine Pitt County Girls Softball members attended the workshop to plead their case of financial support.
Pitt County government has never funded the organization and the Greenville City Council’s reasoning for not funding the organization is the league is “in Winterville,” said Bo Batts of Pitt County Girls Softball.
“The complex is in Winterville and gives Winterville a good name,” Jackson said, referring to the Sara Law Softball Complex, located on Reedy Branch Road.
Moore’s motion failed again 2-3 with Roberson, Hines and Moye still opposed.