By David Meade
Pelzer Town Council continued the process of looking at providing services for a new town, and how to pay for them, during a workshop held Tuesday prior to their regular meeting. With no tax base town officials are considering options to provide current and new services.
Water and sewer are the two main services already provided for residents, and repair and maintenance on both systems is an ongoing process, especially with limited resources and funds. Four representatives of the town’s sewer treatment provider Renewable Water Resources (REWA) presented information and offered to do a feasibility study on the town’s sytem to see what options are available.
Graham Rich, of REWA, said the regional sewer treatment company has resources available and could possibly offer additional services to the Town of Pelzer.
He offered to have REWA evaluate the possibility of taking over portions or all system maintenance for the town’s sewer if it was a win for both Pelzer and REWA.
He said they could look at the feasibility of the town’s collection system including lines, pump stations and revenue streams, to evaluate possibilities that may help the town as they deal with a lack of resources for making repairs.
Rich said REWA would do the feasibility study at no cost to the town and report back with the pros and cons of some type of arrangement, if there is interest by both parties and if it could be beneficial for both.
Butch Merritt, who has represented REWA since 1984, spoke to the council about REWA’s Piedmont treatment plant, which both Pelzer and West Pelzer currently pump sewage to for treatment.
The plant is fairly new and “one of the best operated treatment plants in South Carolina,” Merritt said. According to him it has a capacity of at least 25 years.
Merritt said REWA is not coming here to take over anything in Anderson County. “We are here to serve,” he said.
Rich told the council that REWA would evaluate the current system, look at long term areas including repairs and evaluate revenue sources to come up with options and see if there is a way for REWA to take over the system and free up money for the town.
There was considerable discussion about joint ownership of the current sewer treatment system by Pelzer and West Pelzer and the towns working together.
Pelzer is completing Phase 2 of an upgrade to their sewer lines and both towns contribute to operation of a joint pump station to pump to the REWA’s Piedmont Treatment Plant.
Both towns also have long term USDA loans they are paying for the sewer system upgrades they have completed in recent years.
Pelzer Town Attorney Jimmy King asked the REWA representatives several questions about how an arrangement may work.
After some discussion King said he had no problem with REWA looking at options but stated, “It would be difficult for one town to enter into a relationship with REWA without the other.”
King urged the REWA representative to have a meeting with West Pelzer officials to propose a joint evaluation of both projects.
During the work shop, council also approved a request to allow a hotdog cart to be set up one day a week at the Pelzer ballfields area.
Mark Lowry said he will have hotdogs, chili and funnel cakes available and will pay a two percent hospitality tax to the town based on his sales. Lowry was to provide insurance and other information to the town. The arrangement will be on a temporary basis.
During their regular meeting at 7 p.m., Consultant Skip Watkins and Attorney Jimmy King provided an update on their study of setting a millage rate for the new town’s tax base.
King told Council it is very difficult and troubling to plan for the large number of expenditures needed for infrastructure, signs, roads and other things the new town will need.
King also said that once a millage is set, the town is limited by homerule on how much they can increase each year.
He said it will probably be 2018 before Pelzer can expect to begin collecting any taxes.
Watkins said the county will need to have the numbers from the town by September of 2017 and that revenues would come in fourteen months later.
Watkins said he will check with county officials to determine exactly when data is needed by the county and collections would begin.
King said if residents of the town are taxed for 2018, revenues will not begin coming in until 2019.
“I have strong concerns the town will need revenues for services before 2019,” King said.
King added that an agreement with REWA could help town citizens. He also said in a joint effort with West Pelzer, West Pelzer may not want to take on an agreement without Pelzer having a tax base. “We need to pay our way,” he said.
“The bottom line is for council to make a decision and let us know how to proceed.”
At the end of the meeting there was some discussion about the Pelzer Historical Society.
The non-profit run by Beth Rostron has been a source of irritation for town officials, residents and members of the other non-profit organization in Pelzer.
Rostron formed the non-profit and has taken donations but has not been active in the town in years.
Attorney Jimmy King said she does have an active website and legally there is nothing the town can do as long as the organization is registered with the state.
The Pelzer town council meeting agenda has had Rostron on it for every meeting during 2016 and she has yet to show up for a meeting.