Williamston Town Council approves second reading on budget, hears presentation on water meter upgrade

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By David Meade
During their meeting Monday, Williamston Town Council approved second reading on the budget, heard an update on the water meter upgrade project and a report on hazard mitigation.
During public comments, Milton Owens Jr. told council he is working to present a musical play entitled “Never no more” in Williamston in September.
Owens said the play is based on a family overcoming its past to reach their destiny.
He said the ticketed event would be a black tie type occasion.
Mayor Mack Durham asked him to provide additional information about the project when it is available.
Williamston Police Chief Tony Taylor presented May stats for the Williamston Police Department.
Taylor said the department issued 30 tickets, 32 warnings, three arrest warrants and made fifteen arrests. The department had 43 written reports and nine accident reports, 163 business checks and 260 business contacts. 380 keep checks were done. Officers had 246 calls for service
Chief Taylor also announced that a suspect was in custody in connection with an armed robbery at O’Reilly Auto Parts in Williamston that happened less than two hours before the council meeting. According to Taylor, the suspect was apprehended, with the help of the Belton Police Department, within about an hour of the robbery.
Taylor said the department has purchased a movie screen to be used for showing outdoor movies in the community.
He also said that the department has ordered new tazers.
Envision Williamston Executive Director Sonya Crandall said the organization is working on landscaping and gateway projects at three main entryways into town.
New Welcome Signs are being constructed on North Hamilton St., Anderson Drive and East Main or Greenville Drive. Crandall said the gateways will be lighted.
She also said EW is working on a mobile app for the town.
Other projects include continuation of the facade grant project, a mural program and rest stops.
She said the projects are adding a “vibrancy in the downtown area.”
Crandall also announced that the town is seeking historic designation on the Federal Registry for Williamston’s Mineral Spring Park. The park is one of the oldest public parks in the country.
Debbie Chapman presented a short codes enforcement report for May.
Chapman said there were three citations for non-compliance, two for animals running at large, two leaf complaints, twenty-eight tall grass/weeds and three street lights out.
The leaf complaints were for leaves not being bagged, she said.
Some residents have been given some leeway for tall grass due to amount of rain the area has received lately, she said.
Mayor Durham said the education approach with codes enforcement “is working with residents as they become aware of ordinances and take care of problems. There is a willingness to be compliant. The community is responding very well to this.”
Councilman Tony Hagood requested use of the park for a Unity in the Community event on Friday, July 13. The event is sponsored by Unity Mortuary of Anderson and Williamston, he said.
The request was added to the agenda and approved during the meeting.
Councilman Rockey Burgess requested a couple of changes in the budget. Burgess suggested reclassification of a hospitality line item for Envision Williamston supplies and another for capital improvements budgeted at $50,988.
According to Town Clerk Michelle Starnes, other minor changes made since first reading include taking out $9000 from the budget for the Lee Steam project due to it being finished, adding income for lease of the armory, and changing the attorney fee from $20,400 to $24,000 to reflect a monthly increase of $300.
Council unanimously approved second reading on the $3.2 million budget with the changes.
Council approved second reading on changes to the garbage and trash ordinance. The change allows the town to provide two or more receptacles to residents who may want or need them.
Council also approved change to the zoning ordinance, establishing I1 and I2 (light industry) zoning districts.
Council approved first reading on a zoning change to designate town property on Mill Street Light Industry.
Council approved first reading on a zoning change for property located at 9 South Academy St.. The change is to RC, residential/commercial.
Adam Hogan of Alliance Engineering presented an update on the radio read water meter project. According to Hogan the project was started in 2016 and is about to be completed, with only a few punchlist items to be addressed.
Hogan said the town received a $1.576 million USDA Rural Development loan award for the project but instead obtained a loan from a local bank that saved the town approximately $250,000.
The project is also coming in underbudget at approximately $1.3 million, Hogan said.
According to Hogan, base stations were installed at Virginia Drive and Hamilton Street which reduced the number of repeaters needed.
The project included the installation of 2466 new meters including the schools and Milliken.
Hogan said four of seven old meters sent for testing failed to meet current standards for accuracy.
The new meters, however put the town on “the high end of water meter systems,” Hogan said. “It is a very proactive approach to metering and responding to problems.”
The new equipment is the latest in technology for reading meters, accuracy and being able to address problems, such as leaks, quickly.
Town of Williamston Public Works Director David Rogers demonstrated the internet based system.
Rogers brought up the new website that allows the town to read meters and monitor usage.
He said the system allows “instantaneous” reading of a meter.
He said the system automatically sends an alert for leaks. “If it runs for 24 hours continuous, it will let us know there is a problem,” he said.
Rogers said several residents have already benefited from the system.
One resident had a leaking water heater that was caught on the first day and another was out of town and had a leak showing, so the town was able to shut off the water until the resident could get back to see what the problem was.
“People thouroughly enjoy that,” Rogers said.
The system has three different notification levels, time date and problem to hourly use.
Councilman Burgess said the system is a “huge service to our residents.”
He also asked about an app that comes with the system which will allow residents to monitor their own usage.
Hogan said there are some bugs being worked out of the app, but it will be available soon.
Council also heard about emergency planning for future problems.
Anderson County Emergency Management Director David Baker presented information about the Anderson County and Oconee County Hazard Mitigation Plan.
Baker said the Anderson County Emergency Management Division of the Sheriff’s Office has been doing risk assessment with local partners in the county, to identify areas of vulnerablility and future hazards.
Specifically in Williamston, Baker said there is a need for back up generators, including one for a lift station.
Baker said that by having the Hazard Mitigation plan in effect, the town is eligible for federal reimbursements and funding grants..
“David Rogers did a phenomenal job for the Town of Williamston,” on the assessment Baker said.
According to Baker, the town will be getting $30,000 to $40,000 back on previous expenditures.
Baker was accompanied by Casey Collins and James McAdams of County Emergency Management.