West Pelzer considering purchasing NAPA property for new town hall

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More discussion this Thursday

By Stan Welch – West Pelzer Town Council will hold a special called meeting this Thursday evening (July 14) to discuss and vote on a proposal that would see the town hall relocate and grow into a municipal center in the coming years.

The proposal, which would involve the purchase and renovation of the former NAPA store location at 30 Main Street, would upgrade and centralize the town’s governmental functions, as well as anchoring what Mayor Sanders sees as the downtown business district.

“In every small town in South Carolina, the Main Street is the most viable location for both businesses and local government,” Mayor Sanders said during his presentation to council Monday night. “That is how I see this location as well.”

The store front location is adjacent to the Chapman Park, which in turn abuts the existing town hall parking lot, and also accesses Hindman Street.

It was the consensus of Council that consolidating the town’s presence in that area is a desirable goal; but some members asked for more time to study the proposals, which include two alternative, differing mainly in terms of the financing and the time frame for completion of the project.

In addition to the $95,000 asking price, Sanders projected an additional cost of $100,000 to $160,000 in improvements, to include roofing, HVAC, and electrical issues. The building will also have to be ADA compliant.

The first option for completing the purchase and renovations would be to purchase the building with a loan. The monthly payment on such a loan could range from four hundred to eight hundred dollars a month, an amount described by Sanders as being “well within affordability based on previous budget savings.” This option would allow completion of the project in one year.

Alternative two differs essentially in that it would spread the renovations over three years. In either case, the town hall will remain where it is until final completion of the project. Either alternative will involve the use of the remaining balance of contingency funds currently being held in abeyance until the completion of the phase two sewer project. Sanders said that the latest estimate on how much of that money will be left when the project winds down in the coming weeks is approximately $75,000.

The release of those funds would have to be formally applied for and approved by the RDA. But Sanders says that ample precedent exists for such a re-allocation of funds. Additional funds from the Town’s growing capital improvement funds will also be used as needed. Sanders stressed that the budgetary steps taken by the Council recently has helped make the consideration of this relocation possible.

An additional $28,000 which was earmarked for the town by County Councilwoman Cindy Wilson would be used for paving the parking lot between the building and Chapman Park, as well as paving a connecting drive which would create the link between Main Street and Hindman Street.

The current town hall is approximately 1400 square feet and houses the town offices, the police department, the municipal court and the mayor’s office. The new location is almost three times that size, at 4000 square feet, and will also accommodate the water and sewer department.

The plan also includes five thousand dollars to eventually renovate the current town hall, which would be rededicated as the Senator Billy O’Dell Community Center. O’Dell’s support of the town over the years is well known, and was crucial in securing the water and sewer upgrade projects.

Sanders said that Senator Mike Gambrell has expressed his support for that project, and his assistance in seeking PARD grant funds to finance it. Gambrell currently occupies the Senate seat vacated by Sen. O’Dell’s untimely death earlier this year.

The special called meeting was scheduled to allow members of the Council a little extra time to study the proposals. It was necessitated by the fact that the Town’s option on the purchase of the property expires on Friday, July 15th. That option has already been extended once. There are obvious concerns that once the property is available on the open market, the opportunity to purchase could be lost.

The meeting will be held at 6:30 on Thursday evening, and is open to the public.

In other business, the Council heard from Jeff Parkee, of the Anderson County planning department, who explained that the department had reached the stage in their development of the ten year comprehensive plan where they were seeking reactions and input from the public. A meeting will be held at the Monkey Park at 7 p.m. Monday , August 2 to allow the public to participate.

Mayor Sanders also informed the Council that the Fall Festival, scheduled for Oct. 29, will be held on Main Street in West Pelzer, instead of at the Monkey Park this year. The SCDOT approved the closing of Main Street from Hindman Street up to Bollinger Street for the three hours of the festival.

Councilman Jimmy Jeanes was selected to join Mayor Sanders on the joint water and sewer committee which will also include the mayor and a Council member from Pelzer. The committee will meet monthly to review and address any issues that might arise.

Council also approved town clerk Paula Payton’s attendance of the upcoming Leadership Anderson course, which will run for ten months.