By Stan Welch
West Pelzer Town Council addressed a variety of issues Monday night, ranging from consolidating the Pelzer and West Pelzer town clerks’ offices to taking legal action against the SCDOT to stop trucks from using Highway 8 to pass through town.
They began by authorizing Mayor Blake Sanders to sign a pending contract with Clear Link, a company offering to provide free high speed wifi to the town hall and other locations in exchange for the exclusive right to place an antenna on the town’s water tank.
Both the mayor and town attorney Carey Murphy raised minor issues to be addressed in the final draft of the contract, but neither foresaw any major problems ahead.
The Council then discussed the resolution presented and approved by both Councils at a joint special called meeting held on March 20.
That resolution supported the consolidation of the offices of town clerk “to provide efficient public works and administrative services” to the towns.
The consolidation would include the actual relocation of the Pelzer office to the West Pelzer municipal center, which is slated to be occupied in July. An earlier, temporary relocation might be necessary, depending on the outcome of some tentative plans for work to be done on the Pelzer Town Hall before the July date.
Pelzer will reimburse West Pelzer for such costs as utilities, based on the percentage of the square footage occupied by their offices within the municipal center.
West Pelzer approved the arrangement Monday night, with the Pelzer Council scheduled to take it up at their meeting Tuesday night. At that special joint meeting, the Pelzer Council also approved an offer from WPPD Chief Mike Clardy to provide an off duty police officer to provide security at Pelzer Council meetings, at a cost of fifteen dollars an hour (minimum of two hours).
Mayor Sanders then made a proposal to approve the leasing of the lot at 24 Main Street, where the police station used to be located. The area behind the building is slated for paving and would provide between ten and twelve parking spaces. Ken Majors, who owns the property has offered to lease it to the town for a hundred fifty dollars a month. Sanders pointed out that leasing it would surround the municipal complex with public parking and would also be beneficial for new and existing businesses in the immediate area.
Councilman Donnie Jeanes suggested making a counter offer to Major, in light of the fact that he is going to pay nothing for the paving to be done. “Maybe we should get it for free for two years, since it will obviously increase the value of the property,” said Jeanes.
Councilman Jimmy Jeanes suggested addressing the matter in the upcoming budget, even though Sanders stressed that the annual cost of eighteen hundred dollars would be just fifteen per cent of the hospitality taxes that the Mill Town Place restaurant will generate each year.
Following further discussion, Sanders moved to table the matter for one month.
The Council then opened a sealed bid for the Town’s 1997 Ford F-30 work truck. It was the only bid received, and it came from Barry Bryant, who offered $3200. After some discussion, the Council rejected the bid, with a couple of them expressing the opinion that the truck, which has only 73,000 miles on it, should bring more than the amount offered. The vote to reject was four to one, with Sanders opposed.
Councilman Jimmy Jeanes then raised the issue of the Council’s pay. Council members currently receive fifty dollars a month, while the mayor’s salary is budgeted at two hundred a month. Mayor Sanders has not drawn his salary since being elected. Both Pelzer and Williamston pay their Council members more than that.
“I think this Council has worked really hard the last year or two to get this town squared away and to make it a better place to live. I know that people think we just come to meetings, but that’s not true. I ride around town all the time, and I know the rest of you do too, looking for things that need attention. Fifty dollars just isn’t fair, really.”
Jeanes pointed out that any raise approved by Council wouldn’t go into effect until after the following municipal election. “This isn’t about paying ourselves more. Who knows who will go back in after the election? It’s just time to make this pay fair. I would suggest a hundred dollars a month.”
Councilman Donnie Jeanes felt that the timing was wrong. “We still have work to do getting the town straightened out financially. This just seems like a bad time.”
Town Attorney Cary Murphy recommended taking the question up during the approaching budget discussions, confirming that the raise could not be implemented until after the next election. He also suggested the possibility of adding a line item for Council expenses in the budget. No action was taken.
Councilman Jim Riddle then took the floor to call for a more aggressive approach to the town’s traffic problems, specifically the large number of tractor trailers that pass through town on Highway 8.
“We need to start an argument with DOT, and take legal action if we need to, to stop these trucks from coming through town. We need to tell our people to send e-mails and letters complaining about it,” said Riddle. Mayor Sanders assured the Council that he has spoken to anyone who is anyone at the SCDOT.
“We can use on street parking to try and slow them down, or we can lower speed limits. And the possibility of a traffic signal or three way stop at Palmetto Road is available, though that idea will likely please no one. As far as banning the trucks entirely, that’s just not going to happen.”
Riddle argued that other towns have succeeded in such actions, but Sanders pointed out that those towns had viable alternate routes within their city limits; a circumstance that does not exist in West Pelzer.
Riddle continued to insist that the town pursue legal means, and Sanders said he would instruct the town attorney to do whatever the council decided. “But I don’t even know what we would file. To just sue the DOT to stop the trucks makes no sense to me. I think we would do better to work on slowing them down.”
Riddle again encouraged those present in the audience to contact DOT and to also get the state Senator and representative involved as well.
He then raised the issue of the town’s sign ordinance and was quickly named by the mayor to head a committee to look into the matter. The mayor also told him that the town’s planning commission has also been tasked with reviewing all of the town’s ordinances, which includes an existing sign ordinance. Sanders conceded that the existing ordinance is essentially useless.
The town will also hold its annual spring trash cleanup this weekend, though no toxic items or materials will be picked up.