West Pelzer approves Letter of Intent to transfer sewer system to ReWa

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By David Meade
During their meeting Tuesday, West Pelzer Town Council approved a letter of intent to sell the town’s sewer system to REWA and held first reading on their 2018-19 budget.
During the meeting, Town Clerk Paula Payton reported the Palmetto Business Association will hold their May meeting at the West Pelzer Municipal Center at 12 p.m. May 15.
Renovation work on the O’Dell Community Center is almost complete. The town will receive a reimbursement from a PRT grant on expenses associated with the renovation. The project includes a new restroom and other improvements to the old town hall. Opening and ribbon cutting for the O’Dell Community Center will be scheduled for sometime in May, Payton said.
She also announced that May 6-12 is Municipal Clerk’s Week.
She also announced that May 13-19 is Police Week and falling within that week on May 15, is Peace Officers Memorial Day. Payton said a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day was made in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.
In the public safety report, Payton said the Police Department had 39 reports, 22 arrests, 131 tickets written and 62 warnings written. The West Pelzer Fire Department had 18 calls for service.
In the public works report, Payton said thirty work orders were completed for West Pelzer, and the town is waiting on final inspection from the USDA and a final payout.
The joint West Pelzer/Pelzer Public Works Department completed twentyfour work orders in April for Pelzer and installed three new radio read water meters.
(Note – The Pelzer Town Council voted Monday to dissolve the joint public works agreement with Pelzer – See separate story this issue).
A public hearing was held prior to the meeting on both the budget ordinance and the ReWa letter of intent. Mayor Blake Sanders presented highlights and answered several questions from citizens during the hearing.
During the hearing and later in the meeting, Mayor Sanders presented background information and details on the ReWa proposal.
According to Sanders, a joint public works committee consisting of the mayor, mayor pro tem and staff if needed, was formed in 2016 as required by the Rural Development Authority.
In February 2017, the committee recommended that ReWa perform a feasibility study on the acquisition, management and maintenance of the town’s wastewater system.
Over the last year there have been several meetings, including meetings with Pelzer officials, on the ReWa proposal.
Sanders said whether Pelzer agrees to transfer their sewer system or not, it has been determined that the Town of West Pelzer can move forward.
According to Mayor Sanders, the town officials had five goals if the sewer system was to be transferred to ReWa. They included:
The acquisition should assist in growing the Town of West Pelzer.
ReWa should provide expansion to future economic development opportunities that fall within an updated sewer collection system master plan.
ReWa should assume all outstanding sewer debt owed by the town.
ReWa should fairly compensate West Pelzer for the sewer system assets including lines, pump station and property.
Also, future sewer rates should be at or less than current rates until increases by ReWa are necessary.
Sanders presented information related to the recent upgrade and operations of the system.
The town recently completed a $7.7 million sewer system upgrade. The project included 36,097 linear feet of sewer lines and 189 manholes.
According to the mayor, the town’s sewer enterprise is currently running a deficit of $19,753 plus deferring maintenance expenses, results in the town operating at an annual loss of approximately $37,000.
Without the ReWa purchase option, the town’s current monthly water and sewer charge of $57.30 would need to be approximately $71.62, he said.
If the transfer is approved by ReWa and the town, the town will benefit by having the RDA debt of $1,520,000 for the recent upgrade paid off, $250,000 will placed into a Deficiency and Repair fund, $330,000 will be set aside for future Growth and Ecnomic Development. The town will also receive $400,000 in cash.
According to the Mayor, the cash payment to the town will allow the town to pay off all outstanding debt and still have $145,113 in the bank.
Debt payoff would include a Hospitality Tax loan obligation of $100,714 and a General Obligation Bond of $127,535. The town would also be able to payoff the new radio read water meters $40,000 and conduct a water/sewer rate study costing $15,000.
Sanders said the study is needed to get a true water rate the town should be charging.
The town would also have the option to payoff a $400,000 capacity charge to the Greenville Water System, which could result in lower water rates for customers.
Mayor Sanders said he met with Congressman Jeff Duncan and Senator Lindsey Graham who were both instrumental in getting approval by USDA for the transfer of the sewer system to ReWa.
He said with the approval of the letter of intent, attorneys for the town and ReWa will work out the details for transfer of the sewer system, which should be completed in approximately 60 days.
Following that the budget will be amended to reflect changes and council will be asked to decide what to do with the $400,000 cash payment the town will receive.
Once the sale is complete, the town will no longer be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the sewer system operations.
The town will continue to read water meters and bill for the service, Sanders said, at a rate to be negotiated with ReWa.
In other action council unanimously approved first reading on the 2018-19 budget without much discussion.
Council also approved Mary Francis Cole to serve a two year term as the town’s municipal judge.
Sanders said a committee reviewed 14 applications, and after very careful consideration of the candidates, recommended Cole for the position.
During Council requests, Mayor Sanders announced that the West Pelzer Elementary Beta Club had raised $980 for a swing set for kindergartners to be installed in Chapman Park. The funds will be matched by the town and a private individual to cover the estimated cost of $3000.
There was a citizen request to remove an old sewer line and manhole and to look into some road repairs.
Former councilman Jimmy Jeanes recommended the town look into any possible future costs for residents to replace service lines that may be required once the sewer system is sold.
The West Pelzer Fire Department is planning to purchase a new truck and is holding a fundraiser the first weekend in June.