Pelzer officials in process of gathering information for possible future tax base

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By David Meade

Pelzer Town Council heard comments and addressed questions from citizens during about half of their regular monthly meeting Tuesday. Most of the other half was discussion on planning and budgeting for providing services.

During resident input, a property owner in Pelzer asked about a permit required to move a mobile home onto a lot she had recently sold. Emma Cummings told Council she was told a permit was needed and that council had recently passed first reading on a new ordinance restricting mobile homes. She questioned if the town had passed first reading on an ordinance and if a permit was needed.

After several minutes of discussion among council members, off microphone, it became apparent that no one on council could answer her questions.

Attorney Jimmy King finally spoke up stating that if there had been a first reading of an ordinance, council could amend the agenda and hold second reading on it, making it in effect.

There was additional discussion. King stated if there had been first reading on an ordinance of this type, that he did not draft it and was not aware of it.

Mayor Steve McGregor said they would have to look at council meeting mintues to be sure.

Former Town Clerk/Administrator Skip Watkins, who is still assisting the town, said at one time there was some paperwork that would be filled out and sent to the county for a permit and that the county had guidelines for moving older mobile homes.

Wilma Baker, a representative of Pelzer Heritage Commission, asked council to allow her to do volunteer work on playground equipment in the Monkey Park prior to the fall festival. Baker said she wanted to do some cleanup and touch up with paint. Council gave her an ok to proceed.

Jimmy Harrison presented pictures of problem areas in the town that included water runoff, tall grass and weeds and pallets at the lower mill site.

Eddie Waits made statements, directed primarily to councilmember Will Ragland, about the way he felt Ragland addressed him during a recent meeting.

Waits said as a supporter of the annexation effort and as a citizen, he thought he would be represented by the new council and be able to ask questions of the elected officials who he said “represent us.”

Waits said that in an effort to find a way to help with high water bills in Pelzer and generate income for the town, he had asked council about the possibility of a fifty cents tax on tickets sold for production of the Mill Town Players.

Waits said the response from Ragland, who is also the executive director of the local theater company and the way he was spoken to, had been bothering him since. “You will not talk to me again in that way,” Waits said.

Waits pointed out that grants the production company had recently received were from tax payers. “Those grants come from us,’ he said.

Ragland responded that his “frustration about giving money to the town came out and that is not how a non-profit , arts organization works.”

Ragland said he agreed the town needs to think of ways to raise money, but he never attacked Waits and never meant to hurt any feelings. “I hope we can move forward,” he said. He said several people had asked about taking money away from a thriving business that had come to Pelzer. “We work really hard to earn our money.”

In other business, Brad West gave an update on the Phase 2 sewer project upgrade. West said all of the pipe has been put in and there is still some lining work to be done under the Hwy. 8 bridge and at the dam. He said cleanup is continuing and that the town is receiving complaints daily, which are being forwarded to the contractor. Paving has started and there is more to do.

West also announced that he recently obtained his Waste Water Collection system Operator license.

In an effort to begin preparing to offer services, Town Attorney Jimmy King and former adminstrator Skip Watkins have been in the process of obtaining data from the county for calculations for budgeting including setting a millage rate and costs for services.

Watkins said the information is not in a user friendly form and that it will take some time to get it together.

Watkins said they are looking at county tax information to determine values of rental and commercial properties and vehicles that would be taxable and comparing what other towns pay to get an idea of what a representative town might collect.

They are also looking at West Pelzer and Pendleton for a comparison on funding required for a police department.

King said when the town begins budgeting, they will need to consider road maintenance and upkeep. King said the county is not budgeting for paving in municipalities and that any funding they do provide will be matched by town funds. King also advised that repairs may have to be done by an outside contractor.

King said when the town annexed properties last year, they also accepted county roads. “County roads are now town roads,” he said.

At the close of the meeting, Mayor Steve McGregor responded to a question about savings the town had by cutting recreation and senior program.

McGregor said that when citizens were asked about service, first was police protection. McGregor said that the best way is for Pelzer to take care of Pelzer. He stated that prior to annexation, the town could have started a tax base to begin offering services but there was still the problem of inside and outside town and how to charge for services.

He suggested that with the annexation and to provide services, there will have to be a tax base, “If Pelzer continues and not turn into a water district.”

Watkins added that he projected the town would save approximately $80,000 which would go into a savings contingency fund.

There will be a citizens workshop with Pelzer Town Council at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27.