By Stan Welch
Two topics related to the future of Pelzer and West Pelzer are in the air.
West Pelzer Mayor Peggy Paxton confirmed that she and the town council have been approached informally, so far, by representatives and residents of Pelzer and the surrounding mill village about a possible merger of the two towns.
“I have been approached by one of their town officials, as well as by members of other civic organizations or groups about the possibility of merging the two towns,” said Paxton. “I believe my council and I are open to discussing the proposal, but nothing formal or official has been scheduled yet.”
Paxton said she can understand how the merger would make sense, especially for Pelzer, which contains only 43 homes along a few streets. “We already have a law enforcement infrastructure, including a municipal court. I can imagine how expensive it would be to build one from scratch. And law enforcement seems to be one of the biggest concerns I hear from the Pelzer folks who have spoken to me.”
Paxton also pointed out that the two towns are already cooperating in a joint sewer project with ReWa. Earlier this year, the wastewater from both towns began flowing to ReWa for treatment, effectively removing the two towns from the sewer business. “We still have a few bugs to work out, making sure the billing works smoothly and so forth. We met just this week about some of those issues.”
Another topic making the rounds, especially in Pelzer, is the annexation of large parts of the mill village into the town limits. Such an increase in the tax base would ease the town’s financial burdens and allow the town to provide more services.
County sheriff’s deputies currently provide police protection for Pelzer; the number of incident reports weekly gives evidence of how great that need is. A merger with West Pelzer, especially combined with the additional tax revenue that annexation would provide, could enable much more effective law enforcement by expanding the current West Pelzer force.
Pelzer Municipal Clerk Heather Holcombe, who has been exploring the possibility of annexation, thinks the merger would be beneficial but is not hopeful. “I’m just not too confident that the sentiment is there. These two towns have a long history of separation and competition. I’m not sure that can be easily set aside.”
She added that some property owners whose property is contiguous to the Monkey Park on Goodrich St. are planning to submit their documentation seeking annexation. “Hopefully, we can continue to annex properties and eventually have something to offer our residents to make them want to annex into the town.”
Pelzer recently held an information meeting in which a representative from the SC Municipal Association explained different ways residents could join a town or be annexed.
Though no formal meeting or discussion has taken place on Pelzer annexation or joining the two towns under one municipality, officials of both town’s say they are at least considering the options as a way to improve services and grow the towns.
“As I say, my council and I are open to ideas, but we realize that the logistics will be very difficult to work out,” Mayor Paxton said. “I think we can all do better for our citizens if we sit down and talk about some things, whether the merger ever results or not.”