Paxton chairs last meeting as mayor of West Pelzer

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rsz_paxtonBy Stan Welch

Mayor Peggy Paxton presided over her final meeting of the West Pelzer Town Council Monday night. Paxton, after twelve frequently contentious years, chose not to seek reelection this year. Incoming mayor Blake Sanders presented Paxton with a plaque acknowledging her passion and leadership. Paxton said she is excited and looking forward to life without the burdens of the office. “It has been good for me, but it certainly hasn’t always been easy. But I am excited to have the time and energy to pursue some other things.”

Paxton was mayor during major projects to upgrade the town’s water and sewer systems, as well as efforts to connect the town to ReWa’s wastewater treatment facility. She also presided over frequent budget battles, as the status of the town’s police department fluctuated back and forth between full coverage to partial coverage, before attaining its current stability under Chief Mike Clardy. The Town’s decision to issue tax anticipation notes to address cash flow problems over the last two years also brought acrimony and controversy.

Incoming Mayor Blake Sanders, who, along with newly elected Council member Jim Riddle will be sworn in on January 4, said that he truly appreciates Paxton’s service to the town. “Especially during the last two years she has provided real leadership during some difficult financial times for the town. I can assure you of one thing. She is on my speed dial, as I prepare to take on the task of following in her footsteps. It is reassuring to know that I can avail myself of her tremendous knowledge of the town and its workings.”

Paxton assured Sanders that she would be available if needed. “I love West Pelzer, and I love the people. I will always do anything I can to help, but for now, I am looking forward to doing some other things.”

Sanders said that he hopes to streamline the Council’s meetings, reducing the amount of repetition and excessive debate. “Once an issue has been discussed and a vote has been taken and a position or policy established, I see no reason for that issue to be continuously brought back before the Council, simply because some members of the Council didn’t like the result. It’s difficult enough for a town to move forward without constantly looking back and revisiting matters.”

In other business, an ordinance to annex the property at 128 Arthur Davis Circle failed to receive second reading approval when it became clear that the property included a mobile home that likely would not meet the conditions of the town’s existing ordinance concerning mobile homes.

Town attorney Carey Murphy raised the issue of the mobile home ordinance, which establishes the permissible age of mobile homes within the town limits. “I did not realize that the property was a mobile home. In light of the fact that you also have an ordinance on the agenda tonight that will let the Council allow variances. I would suggest that the vote to annex be delayed until the ordinance allowing variances is passed and enacted.”

Following some discussion, Mayor Paxton insisted on a recorded vote on the motion, which failed by a tie vote of 2-2, with Councilman Johnny Rogers absent due to illness. The annexation question will likely come up again at the January meeting.

The ordinance concerning variances passed by a vote of 3-1, with Councilman Jimmy Jeanes opposed. “We need to be very careful about this. I don’t have anything against mobile homes. I actually lived in one once, but rental mobile homes will attract all kinds of people. We need solid citizens in town to help attract businesses and create jobs.”

Councilman Donnie Jeanes disagreed, saying that the mobile home was already there, and annexing it would at least give the town some authority to enforce its mobile home ordinance.

Chief Mike Clardy asked that a proposed ordinance on public drinking be removed from the agenda until further changes in it could be made.

Following a ten minute executive session to receive information on a legal matter, the meeting adjourned.