By Stan Welch – Following a moment of silence to honor former Mayor Bill Alexander and his wife Roberta, who died within hours of each other recently, the Town Council of West Pelzer gave conditional approval to a budget that includes a three per cent raise for all full time employees.
The approval is conditional because the town failed to hold a public hearing prior to second reading of the budget, as required by state law. “We just simply forgot,” said Town Clerk Paula Payton. “We will hold that public hearing at 7 p.m. on July 30th.”
The budget may also be amended following official approval. Councilman Blake Sanders is leaning towards a four percent increase for the Town’s employees and a two per cent raise for the police department. That approach, if approved, would save some money over the proposed increase of $7304 that the across the board increase would cost.
Sanders questioned the recent effects of a full time police department on the Town’s fund balance, or cash reserves. Mayor Peggy Paxton conceded that the costs of a “full blown” department had made some inroads into the fund balance but that it had leveled off. She conceded that the costs of the department had strapped the Town’s finances.
“We used to have one or two officers and they came and went every few months. Now we have what I think is the best department in the state, but there’s no denying that the costs are felt.”
The budget as conditionally approved also does not include proposed increases in several fees which the town currently charges, such as late fees for payment of utility bills and reconnect fees for accounts that are delinquent.
Payton, who presented the proposal, explained that when the town connects its sewer lines to ReWa that regional utility will begin taking half of all such fees collected by the Town. “So we really need these increases just to hold our ground once that starts,” said Payton.
Mayor Peggy Paxton offered the startling news that once ReWa begins handling the town’s wastewater, to connect a new residential tap to their lines will cost $5000, above and beyond any other fees charged by the Town.
“So if anyone’s planning a new home, you might want to look at doing that as soon as possible.”
In other business, the Council, with Ann Odom absent, learned that the plan to include the name of all the Town’s veterans on a memorial at the Chapman Park site will be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.
“It turns out that the Veterans Administration has a long list of conditions that have to be met to qualify to be on the memorial. For one thing, they had to be born here and to be living here when they enlisted or were drafted. Also, the VA doesn’t even have a complete listing of the veterans who served. Unless they sought benefits or medical treatment, the VA has no record of them,” said Payton, who researched the matter.
During the ensuing discussion, which included members of the American Legion and of the Chapman family, major changes were suggested for the proposed design presented by Walt Young, who owns the monument business on Main Street, and who is donating his services to the Town.
The Council also gave final approval to an ordinance prohibiting the use of the compression, or jake brake, on tractor trailers passing through town, except in the case of emergency. Councilman Alexander explained that the truckers use a technique of changing the compression of the engine to slow the truck, thereby saving wear and tear on their brakes.
The fine and or time for each offense could be as high as $250 or 30 days. Warnings will be written while the proper signage is obtained and installed.