West Pelzer addresses COVID-19 effects, approves first reading on 20-21 budget

By Stan Welch
In a room craftily arranged to accommodate social spacing for both the Council and the sparse audience, the West Pelzer Town Council held its first public meeting since March 17 Tuesday night (May 5). Six seats were available for the public. Three were taken. Two members of Council were absent, but Mayor Sanders, Mayor pro tem Riddle and Councilman Rogers comprised a quorum, allowing business to be conducted.
One item of business was the adoption of a resolution encouraging, but not requiring, residents and visitors to the town to wear masks and gloves when conducting transactions that require close contact. The resolution is not an ordinance and establishes neither a penalty nor a mechanism for enforcement. In a corollary aspect of the same issue, the Mayor announced that the town hall will resume limited operations on Monday, May 11. Access to the public will be limited, and alternative means of paying bills and doing business with the town continue to be encouraged.
The Council also gave first reading approval to the FY 2020-2021 budget. That budget raises  neither taxes nor fees, and is a balanced budget. Sanders pointed out that while tax revenues will increase, that is due to a growing tax base, and not any tax increases. It does include a three per cent cost of living increase for town employees. Second reading, as well as a required public hearing on the proposed budget, will take place at the June 2 Council meeting, presuming no reinstatement or expansion of public gathering restrictions.
Sanders also addressed the impact of the virus and the attendant policies and restrictions on the town’s revenue streams. For example, delinquent utility bills have increased because the Governor has discouraged any disconnection actions during this period. Business licenses have been postponed, but will soon be renewed as the various categories of businesses are allowed to re-open. Those renewals will generate approximately seventy thousand dollars in revenue.
The courts have been closed down, further reducing revenues and police action has been restrained, in an effort to minimize contact between officers and the public. Chief Eliopolous reported that the county’s, and therefore DHEC’s, numbers on the virus are showing a decline in its spread. “We will continue to monitor that, and gradually increase our department actions accordingly,” she said.
Sanders did state that a reserve fund deficit of some fifty six thousand dollars has been reversed, with a current reserve fund balance of one hundred five thousand dollars. He also spoke briefly about three categories of goals the town has set. They are must do, should do, and could do.
Those categories also reflect the potential time line, with some of the goals being decades away. Some of the goals mentioned include beautifying the town, making it safer, addressing parking issues, and eventually connecting Palmetto High School to West Pelzer by a sidewalk system.
Town Clerk  Paula Payton  announced the recognition of Professional Municipal Clerk Week, May 3-May 9; National Police Week May 10 – May 16; and National Peace Officers Memorial Day May 15.