By Stan Welch
The Pelzer Town Council gave final approval to the 2016-2017 budget Monday night and agreed to raise the fee residents will pay for garbage pickup. The unanimous vote followed a public hearing that once again seemed to center on the fate of the town’s recreational programs.
Mayor Steve McGregor explained that closing down the recreational programs was not Council’s intention when they sought to impose tighter controls and greater accountability. “When we finally closed the town swimming pool a couple years ago, that was a very difficult decision, but the fact is that the pool had always lost money. It was built by the mill for additional fire protection, but once the mills started closing, the costs quickly outweighed the benefits. The mills had a lot of wonderful traditions, but they are gone now. We can’t afford to hand out Christmas baskets each year either, you know?”
“Things had reached the point where the other programs weren’t paying for themselves either. When we brought B.J. Tompkins in to discuss things, he resigned, which left us with a program that didn’t make money and about two months to decide what to do with it. B.J. Started working for Williamston, so we just decided to shut things down while we re-evaluated. Next year, we will take a look at it again and see where we are.”
The decision removed almost seventy thousand dollars in revenues that the baseball, football, basketball and gym rentals brought in. The mayor stated that funding for continued maintenance on the town’s various properties, like the community building and gym would remain in the budget. Other operating and maintenance expenses previously budgeted to recreation, will be divided equally to the general administration, water and sewer departments.
“It is our intention to take care of what we have. I, for one, would like to see the gym refurbished to the point where it is the best looking building in town.” Councilmen Ragland and Scott nodded their agreement. Ragland also pointed out that the town now collects a hospitality tax which is expected to generate approximately $25,000 a year. “That money can be used for activities that promote tourism, as well as for recreation. That is a new and exciting source of revenue for the town.”
Citizens will pay a garbage fee of seven dollars a month. Previously, the town had paid a significant portion of the garbage fee but has transferred the full cost to the citizens. “We simply can’t continue to subsidize this cost. This way, there is no hidden bill on the water bills. This is an open line item in the budget. That is what people have told us they want, and that is what Council is doing,” said town clerk Heather Holcombe. The fee will generate $47,040 per year, based on 560 customers.
Some of that public input was gathered at a citizen workshop where Council members and citizens formed five teams to discuss various issues. Mayor McGregor said that the next such workshop will be held on August 23, and one will be held each quarter.
Public works director Brad West informed the audience that a survey of the town’s fire hydrants, as a result of a repair that was needed to one, had been conducted. “We have 75 hydrants in town. Of those, sixty five are seventy years old or more. The one we had to repair cost $6500, and it was over seventy years old.”
The budget figures reflected total revenues of $894,559 and expected expenditures of $811,808, for a surplus of $82,571. The recreation department, which had been losing tens of thousands of dollars each year, will lose $1636.