By Stan Welch – Taxes, grants, planning and the possible merger of the town with West Pelzer were the topics of interest at the Pelzer Town Council’s citizens’ workshop Tuesday night.
Mayor Steve McGregor began the session, which was attended by approximately a dozen residents, by announcing that the final draft of the master plan for the Highway 8 corridor through Pelzer and West Pelzer would be presented on Monday, May 2 at the community building.
The meeting will be at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.
He also reported that the grant application for the Pelzer master plan appears headed for a favorable result, but additional information needs to be provided to the Appalachian Regional Council, or ARC, to satisfy the federal agency that administers the funds.
That $60,000 grant, of which the town has to provide twenty per cent, will be used to pay for a master plan that focuses on all of Pelzer, and is separate from the study to be presented next week. Since the funds come from the federal government, the consultants will be chosen through a bid process.
He also stressed that the establishment of such master plans makes the town much more attractive when they apply for grants. “It’s like going to the bank to borrow fifty thousand dollars. They kind of want to know what you are going to do with the money. Our master plan provides that information to the people who award grants to small towns like us.”
The question of police protection led inevitably to the question of taxes; a question that has been awaiting an answer since last year’s annexation of several hundred households into the town.
Councilwoman Kimberly Wilson, in answer to a citizen’s question, replied that the Council had turned down West Pelzer’s first proposal for providing a police officer to patrol the town.
That led McGregor to state that the first effort, headed by former town clerk Skip Watkins, to determine a tax base and structure for the town resulted in an estimation that two hundred mills would be necessary to “get the town cranked up on its own”, as McGregor put it. He added, “I’m not paying that, and I know nobody else wants to.” He stated that an alternative which included “looking at what another town nearby is doing looks like it would be closer to ninety seven mills.”
He did not say whether the town he referred to is West Pelzer, but continuing cooperative efforts between the two towns drew some of the audience’s ire.
One resident stated that he did not like learning about such cooperation between the towns in the newspaper. “This council was asked last year if they intended to merge the towns and gave no indication that they did. If that has changed, I want to hear it from this council, not read about it in the Journal.”
The reference was to an article in last week’s Journal which explored the possibility of such a merger, as well as the mechanics of achieving such a merger.
In that article, both McGregor and West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders referred to the possibility, with McGregor calling the movement “embryonic” while Sanders said it was in its infancy.
Sanders has been more openly supportive of the idea, touting its benefits for both towns to work together. He has referred to the area as two towns and one community; an appraisal that was clearly challenged Tuesday night.
Several other people responded, with some questioning Sanders’ motives. One woman said that the town could unincorporate if need be to avoid merging.
McGregor conceded that such a move was possible, but added that the joint public works department is working well; adding that West Pelzer has some programs and services already in place that Pelzer could benefit from accessing, rather than duplicating on their own.
“Believe it or not, all of us up here are trying our very best to find the best way to keep this town going,” McGregor said. “We have a lot of challenges and we need to at least look at the different ways that we might be able to meet them.”