Local Mayors on Coronavirus situation – Life goes on

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By Stan Welch
There’s no sense in pretending that the ongoing coronavirus situation isn’t affecting the operations of the three towns in this immediate area; but according to the mayors of those towns, life goes on more or less as usual.
Despite a healthy skepticism about the need for some of the more draconian measures  enacted by Governor Henry McMaster by at least two of the mayors, all are complying with those restrictions and recommendations. All public facilities, like municipal parks and community centers, are closed. Administrative staffs are at a bare minimum, and public access to municipal offices is severely restricted, if not altogether prohibited. Transactions, such as the paying of bills, is being handled either online or over the phone.
The physical operations involved in the public works area are harder to handle with reduced staff. The presence of a much larger percentage of the population also increases the volume of both mainstream solid waste, as more families cook and eat at home; as well as limbs and debris as yard work, long delayed, is being done.
“Everybody is tackling those landscaping and home improvement projects. ‘Honey do’ lists are being addressed”, said Williamston Mayor Mack Durham. “We have been rotating office staff in and out, but our public works crews ae so busy that won’t work for them. We’ve given them a temporary pay raise as an incentive.”
Durham confirmed that the town’s inaugural Hot Air Affair BalloonFest, scheduled for May 1, has been postponed until Labor Day weekend. It will return to May Day next year. Pig in the Park is still on schedule, pending the ultimate decision about reopening public places.
West Pelzer Mayor Blake Sanders echoed many of Durham’s remarks, but raised a couple of less apparent issues brought about by all the closures. “Under the Governor’s edicts, we cannot disconnect anyone’s water service. But the payments on the bond we issued to upgrade our sewer lines still have to be made. Are those demands going to be delayed or forgiven?”
“Small towns are suffering greatly from these measures. I would estimate a negative impact of ninety five per cent on most small towns. The bond we issued based on our hospitality tax revenues is held by a local bank. Our revenues from that tax are way down. Is that bond going to still come due when we agreed to before the virus?”
Pelzer Mayor pro tem Will Ragland says the town is continuing to implement and pursue decisions they made prior to the virus outbreak. “We have sealed bids coming in on the gym projects we have approved, and the Palmetto Soccer Club is making plans to get to work on the large ball field as soon as they are able,” said Ragland.
“We have paid Duke Power for the upgrading of all 124 street lights to LED lights, and are waiting for them to begin. We are also consulting with someone on the best way to upgrade the lighting at the ball fields.” And while Ragland is concerned that the Mill Town Players may have to cancel yet another production, with possible losses reaching thirty five thousand dollars, he was excited to announce that Eva Higgins, owner of Higgins Photography, has opened in the building at 100 Main Street. “That is Pelzer’s first new business in quite some time, and we can’t wait to have a ribbon cutting for her once this all settles down.”