Ladder firetruck, economic development incentives prepare town for future growth

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By David Meade
During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council approved first reading amending ordinances on fees and use of the Municipal Center, alcoholic beverage regulations to conform with state code and town purchasing policies.
Council also held first reading on an ordinance establishing an economic development incentive program and gave approval to a proposal by the Williamston Fire Department to purchase a used aerial ladder truck.

The 2001 truck has only 16,000 miles on it and is almost new condition, according to Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison. “It only has 183 hours on it and is a super buy,” Ellison said.
The truck will replace a 1998 truck purchased new by the department for $208,000. Chief Ellison said to replace the truck new would now cost $400,000.
Ellison said the asking price for the aerial truck is $235,000, which will be financed for six years at 2.3 percent through BB&T bank. The yearly payment amounts to $30,988. The truck new would cost approximately $725,000, he said.
The department will sell Engine 3 and apply $40,000 toward the principal of the aerial truck.
Ellison also asked town council to allow payoff of the last payment of $25,000 on Engine 3.
Ellison said the department has been budgeted $30,000 yearly since 1991 for equipment upgrades and that the amount, along with the proceeds from selling the older truck and eliminating repairs on it, will cover the cost of the ladder truck.
“We will save money on repairs on the high mileage truck to offset the difference,” Ellison said. “It seems like all the stars lined up for this one,” Ellison told Council. “We found this truck. It is all new., does not have the new emissions. It is like a new truck.”
Ellison said the truck will help the town keep the Class 3 insurance rating and possible move to a Class 2.
During the presentation, Captain Dave Bryant gave details about the truck and showed photos. Bryant said the truck is needed for large buildings and churches in the town that do not have sprinkler systems, including town hall.
“Williamston has big buildings everywhere” Bryant said including Cushman, Phoenix (old Mount Vernon/Williamston mill) 24 churches, town hall, schools, apartments and several strip malls.
The aeirial truck will help fight fires with additional height and water support he said.
Bryant said the truck will also allow better customer service, eliminate dependancy on other departments and is a resource for future growth and better mutual aid.
The request was approved 4-0 with councilman David Harvell (who serves on the fire department) abstaining.
Council amended the fee schedule for use of town hall facilities to allow the rental fee to include up to ten tables and eight chairs. An additional table and chairs are available at $20 each. The change also allows for a 25 percent discount for town residents.
The ordinance on use of the Municipal Center allows the mayor to waive fees for non profit organizations, town employees or elected officials who request a waiver.
Mayor Mack Durham said the change gives the town latitude for requests from churches or others with special fundraising situations.
Councilman Rockey Burgess made a motion to amend the ordinance to allow town employees a one time per year use of the facilities as part of their incientive package.
The change with Burgess’ amendment was approved unanimously.
Council approved an amended ordinance addressing alcohol.
Town Attorney Lee Cole said the changes bring the town’s ordinance into compliance with state law and eliminates duplicating sections of the ordinance.
The town ordinances previously banned possession of alcohol on any town property and was prempted by state law, Cole said.
The ordinance was approved 4-1 with Harvell opposed.
The town purchasing policy was amended removing references to an administrator and to allow department heads more leeway on smaller purchases.
The policy states bid procedures for various levels of purchases.
On items under $500 employees are encouraged to secure competitive pricing and three phone bids but are not required to get bids, The department head may approve or deny these requests.
On purchases of $500 to $3500, informal bids from at least three sources are required. These requests are approved or denied by the mayor.
Purchases of $3500 to $9999 require informal written bids/quotes from at least three sources. Requests in this amount can be approved or denied by the mayor and the mayor is required to notify all members of town council of the purchase.
Anything over $10,000 must go through a formal bid process with advertisement in a local newspaper and must be approved by council in a public meeting.
The amendment also changes the number of required signatures, providing weekly detailed check ledger to council and encouraging purchases from small business, women and minority owned and local businesses.
There is also a revised vendor list which is paid frequently and no required bid.
The amended purchasing policy was approved unanimously.
Council approved an ordinance establishing an Economic Development Incentive Program to encourage business or development consistent with the Town’s adopted Master Plan.
Mayor Durham said it provides a tool for economic development purposes.
Town Attorney Lee Cole said the provision will allow the town to give grants to potential economic development projects and to private parties if the project has a public benefit.
Cole said the ordinance allows the mayor to enter into economic development discussions on incentives, however any incentives have to be approved by council.
The ordinance relates to capital investment and development that contributes to the Town’s livability.
Council also approved a resolution that allows the town to accept a PARD grant provided through the Anderson County Legislative Delegation along with a twenty percent match.
The town is being awarded a $10,000 PARD grant which will be used for a wrought iron fence around the army tank in the veterans park. The town will provide a match of $2500 for the project the mayor said.

Mayor Durham announced that improvements related to storm damage on Bigby and Park St will begin this week.
Cost of the improvements to address an open area on a caved in line are estimated at $20,000.
Mayor Durham said it is a long standing problem and has an open ditch that is creating a hazard. The town has been trying to get grant funding for the repair.
“We have exhausted every effort in trying to get it done,” the mayor said.