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An online protest burst into the real world Thursday when a half-dozen parents and coaches petitioned Beaufort County's parks board for changes in the management of youth sports programs.
Frustrated with what he said were recurring problems, Robert Gecy, who helps coach a county Parks & Leisure Services baseball team, created a Facebook group Monday night called "It's Time for a Change With Beaufort PALS."
In a matter of days, the group grew to more than 170 people, many of whom posted complaints about double-booked fields, miscommunication between parents and PALS staff, and uniforms that didn't fit.
Those who attended the PALS Advisory Board meeting Thursday ticked off similar complaints.
Juliet Harvey said her son's uniforms never fit.
"Every year my son is a youth small, and every year he gets a youth extra-large," she said.
Gecy said parents have noticed a decline in the quality of the clothing, as well.
PALS co-director Joe Penale said staff opted for cheaper uniforms this year, in part, because per-player fees do not cover programs' operating costs.
"So what we were trying to do is, we were trying to save some money by ordering the lower-quality uniform," he said.
But PALS board member Al Stern said getting the right sizes should not be so difficult.
"I hear what you're saying; I think it's totally intolerable," Stern told the audience. "I don't care how many budget cuts we've had, there's no excuse for this, because I think a lot of it comes from incompetency."
He suggested PALS reevaluate its contract with uniform suppliers and said board members will investigate issues and confer by email before their next meeting in June.
Bob Peterson, a PALS baseball coach, suggested more parent involvement in the programs. But he said his concerns have fallen on deaf ears when brought to PALS staff.
"There was just a lack of commitment and a lack of desire to make any changes," Peterson said.
Morris Campbell, county community services director, said parents don't need to go to Facebook to be heard.
"Just give us a call," he said, "and we'll try to address the issues."