West Pelzer considers funding events at Chapman Park

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By Stan Welch

In addition to the budget amendment proposal brought up at the West Pelzer Town Council meeting last week, several other issues arose including the future use of the Chapman Park as an attraction and gathering place for the townspeople.

The issue has been under study for several months and Jim Riddle reported to the Council on what he had learned about the matter.

His first point was one of scale. “The main thing is to begin with smaller, manageable events that we can do well, instead of jumping straight to some kind of state fair, that is sure to fail,” said Riddle. He proposed a small gathering, with some food vendors and a local band, perhaps a bluegrass outfit.

He explained to the Council that to book a decent local band would probably cost in the range of five hundred dollars. With advertising and other incidental expenses added in, Riddle proposed budgeting a thousand dollars for the first event, which the Council eventually scheduled for May 23, from 5p.m. to 9 p.m.

The funds would come from the town’s hospitality tax revenues; that amount is currently available. Still some members of Council seemed to want more information.

“That’s what Jim is doing here tonight,” explained Mayor Paxton. “This is the information we asked him to gather.”

Riddle stressed that in order to book bands for May dates, the money and authority to contract with the bands needs to be in place. “If I ask a band if they can play this event on May 23rd and they say yes, I can’t tell them I’ll be back in a month, after the next Council meeting, to sign the deal. Any bands that are good, are being booked for the spring and summer right now.”

The Council approved authorizing a maximum of one thousand dollars for the May event with the proviso that Riddle return with an itemized accounting for the expenditures at the next regular Council meeting. The current proposal is to sponsor one event in the spring, summer and fall.

Riddle also asked the Council to revisit the town’s burning ordinance, which he said is too restrictive in its current form. “We are only allowed two days a month a few months a year when we can burn yard debris. If we get bad weather on one or two of those days, as we have this year, it makes it impossible for people to burn their leaves and such,” he argued.

Councilman Blake Sanders said that the ordinance was designed to address health issues caused by unrestrained burning, and stated that he thought it was working well. After additional discussion, the idea of perhaps adding additional days to the burning schedule might be worth considering.

A proposed amendment to the budget became the focal point of the meeting. (See related stories)

Upon the adjournment of that meeting, a second reading of the amendment, which contained no fiscal detail whatsoever, was to be held the first Monday of March. The timing was to allow for time to advertise a public hearing on the proposed amendment; which would result in the termination of one police officer, and one part time employee of the sewer department.

That date was contingent on whether or not a public hearing is required for an amendment to the budget, information that Town Attorney Carey Murphy admitted he would have to ascertain. As it turns out, the Municipal Association of South Carolina opined that no public hearing is needed for amending a budget once it has been adopted.

Upon learning that opinion, the three members of council who voted for the amendment in title only agreed to call a special meeting this Thursday for a second reading. The mechanics of the decision by the three members to accelerate the process were made possible by a town ordinance that allows a majority of the Council to call such a meeting; even though the decision was reached without the convening of a quorum of the council to take such a vote.

That meeting will be held this Thursday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m.