By Stan Welch
An emerging spirit of cooperation between the towns of Pelzer and West Pelzer continued Monday night, as the West Pelzer town council approved a resolution authorizing a joint application for a hometown economic development grant.
The grant, which is administered by the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC), would require a local match of up to twelve hundred fifty dollars, to be split between the two towns. Mayor Blake Sanders explained that the twenty five thousand dollar grant would be used to hire an economic development consultant, to study the towns’ situation and recommend what types of businesses they should pursue.
“We would work together to locate businesses in the most suitable places. For example, when the Bi-Lo was still pending, West Pelzer simply didn’t have a site where a fifty thousand square foot store could be built, so they built where they did. If a business were to be interested in either of the two towns, we will work together to make the deal happen.”
Another example of the cooperative attitude may face a bit stiffer test Wednesday, when the two towns meet together in a special called meeting to discuss the possible terms of an agreement that would see the West Pelzer Police Department provide patrol and investigative services to Pelzer.
The meeting, scheduled for Wednesday evening, will be conducted in executive session, without public attendance, since it will involve negotiations on a contractual matter. Under the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, no items can be added to the agenda of a special called meeting. Also under the SCFOIA, no votes can be taken during an executive session. The mayors, the councils and both town clerks will be on hand. It is likely that one or both town attorneys will also be available.
Some of the issues to be addressed in relation to the proposed three year contract are the costs of providing the services, the source of the revenues for paying those costs, and a division of the revenues generated by any fines collected.
(See related Pelzer story)
Mayor Sanders, in conversation with The Journal, stated that the annual cost of providing the police protection will be approximately $50,000 a year, a cost which will be borne entirely by the town of Pelzer..
The department currently has three full time officers, six part time officers, and two reserve officers undergoing training at the reserve academy.
An additional full time officer will be hired, while Officer Brewer, who is currently on the staff at WPPD, will be promoted to the role of investigator. Sanders said that the towns will establish a baseline amount of fines routinely collected by WPPD now, and then agree on a split of the additional revenues generated.
“The trick is deciding how we want to divide that money. For example, do we want to give it all to Pelzer the first year, and then use a sliding scale the last two years of the agreement? That might help them get a start on funding their own department. The town of West Pelzer, nor Chief Clardy, wants this arrangement to become permanent. We want to help Pelzer get their own department up and running.”
He added that he has concerns about what assurances there may be that Pelzer can fulfill the three year contract. “I don’t really want to get six months or a year into this arrangement and find out that Pelzer can’t afford it. So we’ll be looking at a number of issues. We won’t take any action on the contract at this time, but will consider it at our regular Council meeting in September.”
In other business at Monday’s meeting, Sanders announced that the police department had received a grant for eighteen thousand dollars to establish a body camera program for the department.
He also reported that the purchase of the old NAPA store at 30 Main Street is expected to close by the end of September. The building is slated for remodeling and conversion to a municipal center which will hold the town hall, the water department and the police department.
He also announced that the town’s Fall Festival will take place on October 29, and the Christmas Parade on December 3.
Prior to the special called meeting with Pelzer officials, another special called meeting will be held Wednesday at 4 p.m. For the purpose of employee evaluations. That meeting too will be conducted exclusively in executive session, without public attendance or participation.