By David Meade
Members of Pelzer Town Council and West Pelzer Town Council held a joint special called meeting Monday at the Pelzer Community Building to discuss and vote on a resolution to consolidate municipal clerks offices of the two towns.
They also addressed security for council meetings.
Both moves are a continuing effort of cooperation between the two towns and looking into ways to save money and better serve residents and businesses.
Combining the offices into one facility will eliminate duplicating costs on power, copiers, phone and internet, and will save both money.
Under the current proposal, Pelzer Town Clerk Heather Holcombe will continue in her position with the Town of Pelzer. However, she will have an office in the new West Pelzer Municipal Center facility that is expected to be finished by July.
The Pelzer Town office will be closed and only used occasionally as needed.
Pelzer water/sewer payments will be taken in person at the Pelzer office in West Pelzer.
Payments will be able to be made online or by phone as they have in the past. A drop box will also be available at the Pelzer office for payments.
Both mayors and council members agreed that their residents need to be informed and there was considerable discussion about how to do that.
Suggestions ranged from providing a town newsletter to holding public meetings to explain the situation and answer questions.
Pelzer Mayor Steve McGregor began stating that the purpose of meeting was “sharing services and working together.”
He gave examples of several projects the towns are already working together on including the REWA feasiblity study, Hwy. 8 Master Plan, and recent combining of the town’s public works department.
McGregor stated with Brad West leaving recently and consultant Skip Watkins only working occasionally, the Town of Pelzer office was down to one person.
He said that West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders had offered to have Pelzer’s clerk move to the new West Pelzer Town offices when they are completed, which “would save money for both towns.”
Mayor Sanders stated that he and the Town of West Pelzer were fostering a relationship that the towns had not had since 1913, and that the discussion and offer was a continued effort “to combine services to save money.”
Sanders then read the resolution.
Mayor Sanders said that the offer came out of recent discussions of the town’s joint sewer committee, which was formed to look into ways the two towns could work together on their sewer collection systems and to explore options with REWA, to which everything flows for treatment.
Mayors McGregor and Sanders along with Pelzer Councilman Roger Scott and West Pelzer Councilman Jimmy Jeanes serve on the committee.
Sanders said West Pelzer will be moving into the new 3598 square foot offices in July. The facility will be housed in the former NAPA auto parts store which is being renovated to serve as their new town hall.
Sanders presented information about the layout of the facility and a breakdown of costs for each town.
The facility includes space for the Public Works Department, the West Pelzer Police Department and Council Chambers/Court Room area.
Both Town Clerks will have their own office space and a shared waiting room. The mayors will share an office.
According to Sanders, 600 sq. ft. of space in the facility will be dedicated to Pelzer. Based on information presented by Sanders, Pelzer’s current monthly expenditures of $1119.25 will drop to $965.30. West Pelzer’s current monthly expenditure of $778 will drop to $596.
Mayor Sanders said Pelzer will save aproximately $150 each month, while West Pelzer will save approximately $200.
In addition to saving on monthly expenditures of having an office, consolidating into one office has other advantages.
The move will allow the Town of Pelzer to have a backup for their clerk, which they currently do not have.
Also Holcombe is familiar with the West Pelzer billing software, having used the same software for eight years before Pelzer went to the QS1 software.
West Pelzer Clerk Paula Payton and Court Clerk/Billing Clerk Shane Black can also accept payments for Pelzer if Holcombe has to be off.
The two towns will continue to use their current accounting and billing systems which will remain separate.
The current Pelzer town phone number will also continue to reach the Pelzer clerk at the new office space.
During the discussion, Pelzer Council member Kim Wilson asked the mayors what the overall benefit to Pelzer would be.
Mayor Sanders said West Pelzer will benefit by savings of $1500 to $2000 a year, which he said he wants to give back to residents.
If the proposal does get approved, Pelzer will have the biggest savings.
In addition to the savings on monthly expenditures, Mayor McGregor said that by combining the two offices, Pelzer will not have to hire another part-time person, saving the town $10,000 to $20,000 minimum.
The discussion also led to the possibility that the West Pelzer Clerk of Court could be available to Pelzer, filling a need for a court system to handle cases, which would open the possibility of enforcing some laws.
Pelzer Attorney Jimmy King said the town could look into whether the sheriffs office can enforce laws if the town had a magistrate court.
King also said he didn’t have a problem with the office being in a different location and that both towns would benefit by having sombody to cover for the other if somebody was out.
Before voting on the resolution, West Pelzer Councilman Jimmy Jeanes raised the question that if the resolution is approved, could either town go back “if it doesn’t work out.”
“This is something that has never been done that I know of,” he said.
Jeanes also recommended that people of Pelzer and West Pelzer be informed and have the opportunity to take into consideration “if they want this.”
Mayor Sanders explained that the resolution is intended to give the mayors authority to “start contractural discussions” and “put together a contract to be brought back to council for a public hearing and a vote.”
Sanders said, “It is no one’s intention to take over Pelzer.”
He said he doesn’t want anyone to feel like West Pelzer is trying to be a big brother or sister. “Whether or not Pelzer is in, we are moving forward with our town offices,” Sanders said.
King again repeated something he has said in Pelzer council meetings. “The town needs to save money and it needs to be put into a fund for road improvements to take care of roads in the future.”
Mayor McGregor said that with the Main Street Master Plan there was an opportunity for “both towns to get together and work together” and for both towns to go forward.
“The mill company is gone,” he said. “We have to look forward to how we can use the resources that are available.”
“I see this as an opportunity to work together and not add on another person,” McGregor said, adding that the savings could be put into contingency funds.
West Pelzer Council member Donnie Jeanes said, “We need to get our town people to join in. We are having to explain ourseves too much.”
He suggested sending a newsletter to residents explaining the proposal and “get citizens on board.”
Mayor Sanders said, “Everything we are doing we try to be bigger than any one person.” He said that with one election, “this could all be undone” and that he wants “one hundred percent unity.”
Councilman Jimmy Jeanes said, “It is a good idea as long as it works, as long as it doesn’t cause a problem.” He said to make it simple and that citizens will have to be notified.
Following a motion by Mayor Sanders for West Pelzer and Mayor McGregor for Pelzer, both councils unanimously approved the resolution to consolidate their clerks offices.
Pelzer also approved a proposal to have an off duty West Pelzer police officer provide security at Pelzer Council meetings.
Pelzer has had an Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputy at their meeting at a cost of $105 per month.
The West Pelzer officer will be uniformed and paid $15 per hour. for a minimum of two hours by the Town of Pelzer.