West Pelzer traffic stops addressed at council meeting

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By Stan Welch

West Pelzer Town Councilman Jimmy Jeanes and Police Chief Mike Clardy went head to head Monday night, as Clardy defended his department and its policies. Jeanes opened his comments by complaining that he had been singled out by the Chief, who hand delivered him a copy of the South Carolina Code establishing the boundaries of a municipal police department’s jurisdiction.

He complained that Clardy brought him the document at six in the evening, and was rather brusque about explaining it. Jeanes demanded to know why Clardy had chosen him to receive the document. Clardy instead explained the statute to the entire Council. The statute states that the municipality has jurisdiction over any road which forms one of its corporate borders.

The practice in question is one in which has the WPPD station a manned cruiser in the old shopping center across Hwy. 20 from the Advance Auto Parts store. From that location, the officer initiates traffic stops and other police actions as they become necessary.

According to Jeanes, several Pelzer and West Pelzer residents have complained that they are being stopped and challenging the position of the police car outside West Pelzer town limits. Clardy explained that such a road is legally considered to be in the jurisdiction of the town.

Sgt. Christopher Brewer, who conceded that he is often the officer on duty during such incidents, explained that the larger and largely vacant shopping area is both safer for such use, and less likely to interfere with the operations of the local businesses on the other side of the highway.

Jeanes repeated his concerns that it doesn’t look good, and also that such intrusive police conduct causes people to stay away from the town. “We need these folks to come here and spend their money. If they are worried that they’ll get a ticket, they won’t do that,” said Jeanes.

Both Brewer and Clardy denied that writing speeding tickets is the purpose of the traffic stops. Brewer said that local drivers who are stopped are unlikely to get a ticket unless they are exceeding the speed limit by more than ten miles an hour.

Clardy also challenged Jeanes, saying that Jeanes had been making such statements publicly, and demanding to know why Jeanes didn’t approach him privately. “This town council gives me a cell phone, and I answer it whenever it rings. If you have an issue to discuss with me, I will be happy to talk to you about it. But when you make such statements in public, it accomplishes very little.”

Clardy then walked down the table where Council sat, asking each one in turn if he had their confidence in terms of responding to their concerns about his department. Each of the other four verified that he did.

For his part, Jeanes vehemently denied attending any such formal meeting, though he did concede that he had made such statements publicly. Jeanes appeared thoroughly, if temporarily, chastised by the time Clardy apologized if his delivering the ordinance to Jeanes had offended him.

“Mr. Jeanes, I consider this entire Council, the other town employees, and my department to be on a team together. I would not want you to think I consider you any less a member of that team as a result of this. If I have offended you, I apologize. We all need to work together to make West Pelzer the town we want it to be, and that is my intention from this point forward.”

In other business, the Council approved spending up to $1700 to buy and install a thirty foot flag pole at the entrance to the Chapman Park. The expense will be minimal because Jeanes, who owns a sign company, agreed to use his equipment to install it at no additional cost.

Councilman Johnny Rogers, the newest member of the Council, asked several procedural questions concerning the meter reading and purchasing policies.

Councilman Robert Alexander raised concern about the pedestrian cross walk in front of Gray’s Mortuary. “It’s not really marked and a lot of times, cars run right through it without stopping. Someone is going to get hurt sooner or later.”

Councilman Blake Sanders proposed a spring retreat, partly to allow Council to address various issues, such as the police policies that consumed so much of the meeting Monday night. “I think if we sit down together for several hours and talk about things, we’ll find more cooperation among us than we might think.” Council approved the idea. It will be held in May.

It was announced that town Clerk Paula Payton has completed the Capstone Project, a requirement for eventual certification as a municipal clerk by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. She will be certified later this year, upon completion of one hundred twenty hours of continuing education provided by the Institute, in conjunction with the Municipal Association of South Carolina.