Council hears reports on water, safety issues and arts center

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By David Meade

During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council heard a report on water quality issues, a safety report from police, fire and EMS officials, and reports from Main Street Williamston and the Palmetto Area Cultural Arts Center.

Due to the meeting running long, Council tabled four items on the agenda including; discussion on giving a water credit to town residents and businesses; discuss sending RFP’s to qualified lawn care businesses for nuisance abatement; concerns about Gray Drive bridge; and Scout Hut concerns, Gossett Drive and museum space for the Williamston Historic Commission.

During the meeting Council went into executive session two separate times to discuss town issues behind closed doors. In all, Council was in the secret session for more than half of the three hour meeting.

The first executive session was to discuss a contract and economic development issue. There was no detailed explanation given for either issue.

Anderson Regional Joint Water System Director Scott Willett, who had given a presentation earlier to council on the ARJWS water situation, was included in the first session which lasted approximately 45 minutes.

Water Presentation

Addressing Council early in the meeting, Willett said that the water quality issues in other parts of the country were worse than the ARJWS faced over the last two months.

“It has been a very long summer,” Willett said. “The water quality problems in California and Ohio dwarfed our issues significantly.”

Willett said that the water line break the system experienced resulted in the water treatment plant being offline for 12 hours, causing a disruption of service for some communities.

“Williamston was spared this,” he said.

Willett explained that the system has 50 year old infrastructure and they are in a continuing process of repair and upgrades on it.

He explained when the lines and tanks were refilled after the shutdown, sediment in them were causing some color problems.

Willett explained that to clear the system they started at the plant refilling the main tanks and then the secondary tanks. “Your commuity is in the process of flushing lines now,” he said. “It does take time.”

Willett said that the water being provided through ARJWS has always been safe, which he said is their number one priority. He added, “We hope it is tasty and clear.”

He said water samples are taken and monitored regularly and that testing is done for 10 to 15 different algaes.

He explained that weather and runoff into Lake Hartwell contributed to the problem.

Willett explained that the intake lines for the water system are in the Six and Twenty area of the lake

“We are in the urban arm of Lake Hartwell.”

Willett said in the spring residents began using fertilizer and mulch and planted shrubs and trees and then it kept raining.

“With surface flooding, the lake is full of nutrients,” he said. When it quit raining the sunlight resulted in algae which led to taste and odor in the water.

Willett said the system is now using powder activated carbon, or charcoal, to help with the problem.

“Since the first of July, the water we are providing has been clear and relatively absent of problems,” he said. “This will work its way through the system. We are providing excellent water on the front end. The system will move that along.”

Willett said that flushing of the outlying systems will then help clear the older water with sediment from the system. “It will clear up as we go,” he said.

Williamston is in the process of flushing lines and having a tank drained and cleaned. “Water quality should improve in this area,” he said.

Willett said the ARJWS strives to provide safe, high quality water at an affordable rate. “The water is safe,” he said. “It has always been safe.”

Council Reports

Council then heard reports from Main St. Executive Director Caroline Alex, Williamston Police Chief Tony Taylor and a safety presentation with information provided by the police chief, EMS Chief Joe Barr and Fire Chief Steve Ellison.

Main Street

Main Street Williamston Director Caroline Alex said new town banners featuring the Historic Williamston logo should be in soon. She said the organization is working on by-laws and 501-C3 tax exempt status and membership levels for corporate, business and individuals.

Committees are also working on an events list and a project to design artwork for vacant store front windows, she said.

Safety Issues

The safety report included information on the number of traffic accident calls run by each public safety department.

Barr said the EMS ran 4423 calls in Williamston town limits during the period Jan. 2010 to July 2014. Of those, 515 had traumatic injuries. Barr said the number one cause of accidents is “rubber necking.”

Chief Ellison said the fire department has aleady been dispatched to 31 accidents at the town’s two major intersections, at Academy St. and at Hamilton St. since Jan. 1 of this year

Police Chief Tony Taylor told council that temporary signs at intersections and along roadways contributed to accidents and asked their blessing to begin enforcement of the town’s sign ordinance.

Councilman Tony Hagood said an unveiling ceremony was held Saturday for the new sign designating North Hamilton Street as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Drive.

Arts Center Update

Thomas Addison and Candace Henry presented information on the Palmetto Area Cultural Arts Center. Addison said the PACAC held three arts camps during the summer, seving a total of 66 people ages six to twelve years old. “We were real happy with the turnout,” Addison said.

Camps included art and music and the Christain Youth Theater group offered dance and theatre classes.

Addison said the PACAC is planning a painting display and reception for artist Joel Yates and an informal open house during the upcoming Spring Water Festival.

Other activities planned include fall art classes, a halloween mask making and theatrical makeuip class, architect design and an art history class.

They also plan to offer special activities with the Homestead Festival in October.

Henry said the music camp included instruments, strings, African drums, band vocal and piano. She said they plan to provide music during the open house during the Spring Water Festival.

2nd Executive Session

At this point, which was about midway through the meeting, council went into executive session with Willett, presumbably to discuss the water issue.

Upon returning to open session, Councilman Otis Scott made a motion to amend the agenda to discuss a change in the form of government the town operates under.

After considerable discussion on procedure and what form of government Scott wanted to change to, council went into their second executive session of the evening to receive legal advice from Town Attorney Lee Cole. (See separate story) The second secret session lasted approximately an hour.