For new town hall
By Stan Welch
Following a public hearing attended by a single citizen Monday night, West Pelzer Town Council voted unanimously to issue a general obligation bond in an amount not to exceed $139,000, with those funds to be used to purchase the old NAPA auto parts store. The store will undergo renovations and become the town’s municipal center, housing both administrative and law enforcement functions. The Council had previously voted to purchase the building, leaving only the question of how to finance the renovations, and on what schedule.
Mayor Blake Sanders explained that the general obligation bond would provide an additional forty four thousand dollars for use in the improvements and repairs, above and beyond the ninety five thousand dollar purchase price.
He also explained that the town has been promised by the RDA that they will receive any monies remaining from the water system upgrade project for use in repairing and upgrading the building. Currently that amount available is approximately one hundred seventy five thousand dollars.
The potential costs of those repairs and renovations are estimated at between one hundred thirty and one hundred sixty thousand dollars, a figure that Councilman Jimmy Jeanes challenged. He estimates a figure of approximately two hundred thousand dollars. Jeanes favors the option of taking three years to renovate the building, while Sanders leans toward an accelerated schedule which would allow occupancy within a year. That schedule would require a more aggressive financing strategy.
Sanders assured both the Council and the public that the project would not result in a tax increase, but he did concede that the collateral for the bond consists of the town’s tax revenues. “If it were to happen that we were unable to make the payments, we would be compelled to either cut services to the town, or raise taxes. But I assure you all that this project will not require us to raise taxes.”
Sanders pointed out that the bond payment is estimated to be eight hundred dollars a month, and that moving the water and sewer department office to the new facility will save approximately five hundred dollars a month. He also touted Councilman Jimmy Jeanes’ efforts in prior years to reduce the cost of the town’s police department, saving approximately sixty thousand dollars a year. “Those various factors make this project a very solid fiscal move, in my opinion.”
While no closing date could be set until after Monday night’s vote on the bond, the current tenant in the building is in the process of vacating the space.
Sanders said that all contractors have been given until the end of October to present their anticipated needs for the renovations.
“At that time, we will all sit down and decide exactly how we want to finance this. Tonight, we simply need to approve this bond so that I, as mayor, will have the authority to proceed with the paperwork,” he said.
Sanders also spoke with The Journal about an issue that was not on the agenda Monday night – the contract for West Pelzer to provide police protection for the town of Pelzer. The two towns have been in negotiations for several weeks, as Pelzer, which expanded their town limits last year, but has yet to begin collecting taxes,seeks to provide at least police patrols to the town.
According to the terms of the contract that both Councils are considering, the WPPD will patrol Pelzer on the same schedule they follow in West Pelzer, and will respond to emergency calls as they occur. West Pelzer will maintain and equip the officers, while Pelzer will maintain the appropriate insurance required.
The contract calls for a three year term, with four thousand dollars being paid by the town of Pelzer at the first of each month. Failure to meet the payment date will result in an additional two hundred dollar fee.
The town of Pelzer also agrees to grant West Pelzer a lien against any and all franchise fees received by Pelzer, as collateral for any monies owed.
Sanders said that as soon as the Pelzer town council approves the contract, he will hold a special called meeting to respond.
“The contract states that services will be provided beginning on January 1, 2017, and it will take us every day of that interim period to get ready. We need to purchase another cruiser, and other additional equipment,” Mayor Sanders said.
Pelzer Town Attorney Jimmy King advised Pelzer Town Council at their Aug. 24 meeting, not to sign a contract committing franchise fees or future tax revenues as collateral.
He also advised the council that he had concerns about committing to an expenditure for services until the town has a tax base to cover the cost.
Pelzer has taken no official action on the contract.