During Council meeting (Expanded version)
By David Meade
During their meeting Monday evening, Pelzer Town Council approved final reading on their 2015-16 budget with some changes, held first reading on a revenue bond ordinance for the Phase II sewer project and then heard citizen input which focused on the annexation referendum on Tuesday (June 9).
Approximately 20 to 30 Pelzer area residents packed into the town’s cramped offices on Courtney Street for the meeting with about ten speaking on the annexation issue.
The comments began with questions and complaints about the process and the short time period, lack of public hearings, and taxes that will follow. Pelzer Mayor Steve McGregor and Town Clerk Heather Holcombe fielded the questions and led the discussion on how the town became involved and where it was going.
McGregor explained how the 25 percent annexation by petition process began in January and the referendum date was set for June 9.
McGregor said that the Pelzer annexation process is the first time the 25 percent petition method has been used in the state.
He also said that by allowing it the town has “opened the door” for residents to have a say in their town and their future. Holcombe said that “People in the community started this and came to them (town council).”
Depot Road resident David Roberts voiced many of the concerns of residents who did not want to be annexed and brought up problems and costs associated with forming a police department, having city codes and enforcement and other reasons he did not want to be included in the annexation. And of course, taxes that would follow.
Other’s voiced concerns about the county not helping with some of the services they currently provide including animal control.
Holcombe said the county will have a grace period to work with the town on some of the issues as they transition.
Comments from supporters of the annexation ranged from “some people don’t object to taxes” to “Come be a part of Pelzer, vote, get on council. The silly things you don’t like, vote against them.”
Most attending were in favor of moving the town forward by having the entire mill village included in the town limits.
Olene Bear said she had waited 57 years to be able to vote in Pelzer. “I think everybody should have the right to vote.”
Duane Wilson said one of the positives is having a vote to be heard. “Let’s all be a part of it, meeting together to decide what is best for the town,” Wilson said. “I’m ready for my voice to be heard and ready for some changes in Pelzer.”
Wilson’s mother said she came to Pelzer in 1961 and worked in both mills. She said the mills took care of Pelzer for a time. “The mills are history,” she said. “They have done us in Pelzer a big disservice. That’s in the past. We’ve got the future to look at.”
McGregor and Holcombe both said the town is looking at ways to de-annex properties that did not want to be in the town limits and that the town does not want included.