By Stan Welch
The Williamston Town Council welcomed a new member as well as a new town attorney Tuesday night at their monthly work session. Former town attorney Lee Cole, running unopposed, won the Council seat vacated when former Councilman Rockey Burgess was elected mayor. Rame Campbell, of Anderson, attended his first function as town attorney. Both men were warmly welcomed by Murphy, the town dog.
Mayor Rockey Burgess proceeded to inform the council of several projects and coming events. The Green Street water project, which will replace a three quarter inch line with a two inch line, topped the list. Someone recently purchased the last three lots in the cul-de-sac and the additional flow is needed. The new property owners agreed to contribute ten thousand dollars to mitigate the cost of approximately forty thousand dollars.
He also announced that phase one of the Brock Lane sewer project is ready to proceed. Phase two will extend the line from the fire department to the park. The Career and Technology Center has approached the town about being annexed into the town limits. TriCounty Tech and local businessman Gary McAlister own property that would prohibit the annexation, which requires adjacency of the property seeking annexation and the town. Burgess reported that both parties have confirmed their willingness to cooperate with the effort.
Burgess also announced that the estimate to resurface the tennis courts and create a pickle ball course at the park comes to approximately $160,000. He added that half that amount could be drawn from the hospitality tax fund over each of the next two years without impacting any other projects the town has going on or planned.
He also recommended that the council amend the budget to pay for the repairs to the Simpson Street washout. “I think that is the best approach and offers greater transparency,” said Burgess. The Council will also give second reading to two ordinances designed to give the police department a bit more of a proactive stance on public behavior on town property. Citing a certain group of people whose behavior has been disruptive and offensive to others at the park, Burgess explained that the ordinance would allow police to immediately invoke trespass notice and remove the offender from the property. Anyone wishing to have the trespass notice revoked would have to petition the town council to release the notice. A similar ordinance related to the disruption of any meeting of a public entity, such as the Council, or the planning commission, or zoning appeals board will also be considered next Monday night.
The issue of capacity at the sewer plant was discussed. The town is currently permitted for one million gallons a day. The issue is that the county has claim on three hundred thousand gallons, a requirement imposed on the town during the Preston administration, in exchange for the county’s assistance in securing USDA financing for the plant. The county doesn’t actually use the capacity, but it reserves it and denies use of it to the town.
Burgess explained that the current cost for expanding capacity amounts to fifteen dollars a gallon, meaning that the three hundred thousand gallons in question would cost $4.5 million to replace. The town is in discussions with the county about buying the capacity back at a much lower cost.
Burgess expressed optimism about getting the capacity back but stressed that the town frequently exceeds capacity on rainy days due to the ingress and infiltration of storm water into old, porous sewer lines. “If we are unable to resolve this matter, we are going to be faced with some very tough choices. We would not double the sewer rate. We would have to triple it. Our choices are simple. We can increase our tap fees to the developer or builder. We can increase the fees we charge our customers. Or we can sell our system. But if we do that, we lose any control over future rate increases.”
He suggested raising the tap fees for new construction to $2500 from the current $900 fee. “We also provide the materials at a cost of $850, so we make fifty bucks on each new connection. The county charges four thousand dollars and the builder provides the materials. “Clearly, we have to address these issues. We take a huge loss each year on the sewer services. The water bolsters us but we have to take a hard look at this situation.”
He also shared the list of road project requests that the town plans to present to the Anderson County Transportation Committee. “These are the absolute worst six roads in the town. Frankly, if we get three of them approved, I’ll be happily surprised.” The roads are: Attaway, Sullivan, C street, Lee, Dove as far as Tucker, and Mattison.
The matter of law enforcement mutual aid agreements with Anderson (city and county) West Pelzer, and Belton will also be on the agenda next Monday.
By Stan Welch