By David Meade
During their regular monthly meeting Monday, Pelzer Town Council addresssed several questions about services the newly expanded town will provide, town finances, the recent annexation and the upcoming election in November.
During public comments portion of the meeting, several questions were raised about the town finances and other issues related to the recent annexation. One of the first questions was when will the street lights be turned back on?
The street lights being referred to were on streets that were not in the town limits prior to the annexation, which had been cut off about several years ago when the town began experiencing financial problems. The cut was one of the first to be made by the council at that time.
Mayor Steve McGregor said the town will probably turn the street lights back on at the first of the new year .
Turning the street lights back on will cost the town approximately $500 monthly.
McGregor explained that franchise fees the town will get from Charter, Duke Energy, Fort Hill Gas and MASC come in quarterly and are just now being collected by the utilities. The town will not receive any of the funding until the end of the next quarter.
There was some discussion about the town’s sewer project payment and a planned rate increase in October.
Town Administrator Skip Watkins said the required USDA payment of $5425 was made in August and there will be another due in September, resulting in the town already being two months behind on collecting the necessary funds from customers when the rate increase begins.
Council postponed implementing the rate increase until after the annexation referendum, though Watkins had encouraged them to begin it when he presented a draft budget reflecting the two payments and the rate increase in June.
During the discussion, Town Clerk Heather Holcombe said that the town was overdrawn on the First Citizens account from which the USDA Rural Development payment is automatically drawn.
Watkins said the account was overdrawn by $14 and that it was an oversight on his part. According to Watkins, the draft came out of the account several days earlier than he anticipated but the bank had honored it.
Watkins said the town currently has $60,000 in reserves and that money is transferred into the account when needed.
Mayor McGregor added Rural Development “requires a certain number of dollars in reserve that we didn’t have.”
During the discussion, there were several questions and comments from the audience about the town’s finances, the sewer rate increase and the recreation program.
Responding, Councilmember Donna Ide said “We want more participation. We want you people to step up, and help us, because we need it. We need you as much as you need us.”
McGregor said, “There are a lot of things coming up that need to be looked at. We will start with the street lights first.”
Other discussions included town ordinances and law enforcement.
One resident complained about a neighbor’s free range chickens taking over his front yard.
Holcombe pointed out that even if the town had ordinances “there is no police department to enforce them.”
There was discussion about Anderson County Sheriff’s Department and West Pelzer Police detaining a person in the Monkey Park but not making an arrest for drug paraphernalia.
Again it was noted that there are no town ordinances to deal with the situation.
Watkins, responding to a question about the current Phase 2 sewer project, said the project involves 60 rights-of-way and cost $47,000 in county right-of-way and $11,000 railroad right-of-way.
He said the project involves replacing old pipes and some new manholes. The project is scattered over the village, he said. A map of the project showing Phase 1 and 2 is available at town hall, Watkins said.
When asked about the water lines, Watkins said the lines are old and that the loss ratio is approaching 30 percent. There will be a need to address that he said, but there are currently no plans to deal with the aging water lines.
Council went into an executive session to discuss enhanced municipal services. The private discussion lasted about 20 minutes and no action was taken.
Afterwards, Mayor McGregor declined to say what “enhanced municipal services” the town may be considering stating that it was too early to say anything about it at this time.
Council also gave approval to accept bids for roof repairs needed at the community building.
First Election in November
Clerk Heather Holcombe said that books are open for candidates interested in running for the office of mayor or the four council seats.
Persons interested must sign up by August 20 and present a petition with the signatures of five percent of the registered voters of the newly expanded town limits. Holcombe said anyone thinking about running needs to get about 33 signatures and will need a buffer in case some of the signatures are disqualified by the County Election Board when the petitions are certified.
Holcombe said the petitions will require the birth date along with signatures of registered voters who sign them. Those signing must be registered voters in the new Pelzer town limts of the Pelzer precinct area for their signature to count.
The town limits have actually been decreased from the original Pelzer precinct area designated when the annexation vote was held June 9 due to some large property owners opting out.
Holcombe said that the Fred’s property near Williamston was not included in the annexation and that properties along Depot Road were not included because a large property owner opted out with agricultural property and made other areas non-contiguous.
Only those residents residing in the new town limits will be allowed to run for office or vote in the Pelzer Town Election when it is held with the General Election in November.