By Stan Welch
In a special called meeting Monday night, the Pelzer Town Council voted to terminate an agreement with West Pelzer, concerning the joint operations of the two town’s public works duties.
They followed that action by voting to create the position of maintenance man for the town of Pelzer. No details of the duties or compensation for the position were discussed.
The notification for the meeting was issued on Friday, and the meeting held Monday. Two Pelzer residents and three West Pelzer public works employees were on hand for the brief meeting. Michael Mahaffey, Jeff Pearson and Trevor Duncan were on hand from the neighboring town.
Both votes were taken with absolutely no discussion. The discussion came after the two votes, when Councilman Gary Pridmore demanded that Mayor Roger Scott inform the employees present why the agreement had been dissolved.
A number of complaints concerning response times and worker performance that were aired at last weeks workshop were revisited, with the employees present to respond this time. After approximately ten minutes of give and take by both parties, Mahaffey confronted Mayor Scott.
“Why not tell all of it, Mayor? You got mad at (West Pelzer Mayor) Blake Sanders and that’s the reason this is happening.”
Scott vehemently denied the charge and soon after, the three employees left. Scott again denied the allegation, and told the reporter present that he didn’t want to see that mentioned in the article. He was assured that both his and Mahaffey’s comments would be included.
When contacted by The Journal for his comments on the actions taken by the Council, West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders had a number of things to say. He immediately challenged the outcome of the votes, saying that he and former Pelzer Mayor Steve McGregor included specific language in the agreement to prevent just such a sudden action by either side.
“Steve and I crafted the language to specifically prohibit the use of such a tactic as a special called meeting to do this sort of thing. The agreement says specifically that any such action, by either side, must take place at a regularly scheduled meeting of the appropriate authority. Based on that restriction, this vote to terminate the agreement is null and void. Someone in Pelzer should have read the agreement first.”
That wasn’t the only issue Sanders had with the vote to terminate. “The agreement also calls for prior written notice to the other mayor, in this case me, of the intent to schedule such a vote. I received no such notice. In fact, I was out of town, and so was the Pelzer town attorney. His advice in this matter might have been valuable.”
Sanders also challenged the thirty day notice of intent, saying that the period of time was in fact sixty days. “We have such agreements for a reason. They are to provide structure to our dealings with one another, a sense of predictability. West Pelzer and its elected officials and staff have worked very hard in recent years to establish a level of professionalism in our operations. But that doesn’t prevent the black eyes we sometimes get from those we try to work with.”
Sanders noted that there are other consequences Pelzer will face in the immediate future. “For one thing, they don’t have the software to read the radio read water meters they have purchased in recent months. So approximately sixteen thousand dollars’ worth of meters meant to be read electronically will have to be read manually, because West Pelzer owns that software. Someone in Pelzer should have known that.”
Despite what he considers grounds to enforce the agreement, and the fact that West Pelzer will lose a full time employee as a result of its termination, Sanders said that he does not plan to fight the decision. “I will work with a number of other agencies that have need of experienced public works employees to place this person in a new situation, preferably before this change has any impact on them.”
Sanders added that his council’s anticipated vote to sell its treatment plant to ReWa at Tuesday night’s meeting will effectively dissolve the agreement between the two towns.
“Mayor Scott and his council were a bit premature in their actions. If there had been any communication between us for the last few weeks, a lot of this could have been avoided. ReWa will be collecting that fifty per cent share of the costs from Pelzer now, not us,” Sanders said.
“As to all the efforts made by our council, as well as previous Pelzer councils, to forge some level of cooperation that would benefit both towns, it was made obvious by the last Pelzer municipal election that those efforts weren’t appreciated; nor were their benefits for that town understood,” Mayor Sanders added, “West Pelzer will carry on in pursuit of the vision we have for our town. I sincerely hope Pelzer finds their vision, and the means to pursue it.”