Williamston Town Council takes steps for town improvements

By David Meade
During their meeting Monday (June 5), Williamston Town Council took two steps to continue the town’s efforts to make improve the downtown and recreation.
Council approved a resolution in support of improvements at the town’s little league ballfields and rezoned property on West Main Street that will be improved as a park area.
The resolution supports revitalization of the recreation complex located behind town hall and follows a request to the school district to donate the property to the town.
The little league ballfield property is located on nine acres owned by Anderson School District One.
During a presentation to the District One School Board last week, Mayor Durham said the town would like to make improvements to the ballfields, but must own the property to do so.
Among those improvements are  reconfiguring three existing little league infields, seeding with Rye grass and building three new little league infields with topsoil, sod and irrigation. The existing regulation size ballfield will see some upgrades also.
The town would also like to construct new dugouts along with a centrally located concession and pressbox area.
Durham said the project will be implemented in phases as funding is available over a five year period. Costs for Phase One amount to $30,300.
Durham said the recreation improvements are needed to keep up with the growth the program has seen under director B. J. Tompkins.
According to Durham , the program has grown from 80 kids to more that 800.  The town’s recreation program is primarily baseball, however since the changes in Pelzer recreation last year, it now includes other sports and cheerleading.
Durham said the town has funding available and hopes to match with grant funding  in the future to accomplish the upgrades.
Council also approved re-zoning of town property  located at the end of the West Main Shopping Center parking lot from institutional to highway commercial.
The unsightly property was once the site of a town water tank and the town has been in the process of removing concrete supports and valves that are still located there. Plans are to turn the property into a “Pocket Park”.
In other business, Council approved second reading on an ordinance defining and prohibiting squatting; an ordinance adopting uniform codes for building and construction and an ordinance adopting rental house regulations.
The new rental house ordinance requires landlords and property owners to register with the town and provides for a three strike law enforcement response violation in which the rental permit can be suspended.
The ordinance requires a yearly $10 permit from the town, which can include multiple properties.
Town Attorney Lee Cole said under the ordinance, a landlord with multiple properties could have their license suspended on all properties if there are three violations at a particular property.
Councilman Rockey Burgess stated he was “hesitant of an ordinance that punishes many who do a good job.”
Mayor Durham said the intent of the ordinance was not to punish anyone, but “to try and add quality of life to our community.”
The ordinance passed 4-1 with councilman Burgess opposed.
Council then tabled second reading on the budget.
Council unanimously approved a request by Debbie Walker to place a bench at the fire department in memory of her father Tommy Walker, who passed away last year.
Walker was a fireman for seventy five years and seved as chief of the Williamston Fire Department for thirty years.
The memorial bench site will be similar to others being placed throughout town but appropriate for a fireman, Walker said.
Council unanimously approved abandoning a portion of Sullivan St, located behind Calvary Baptist Church. The street will become church property however the town will retain an easement of any existing utilities, the mayor said.
Council declined to pass an ordinance of annexation of utility customers located outside the town.
There was considerable discussion about the ordinance which would require new property owners, customers or new developments being served by town water or sewer be annexed.
According to Town Attorney, current property owners would be exempt from being annexed until the property changes hands to a new owner. Also the property must be contiguous to town limits.
Councilman Burgess expressed concerns that the ordinance may devalue property located outside the town when a property owner tries to sell it.
The ordinance was voted down 4-1 with only the mayor in favor.
At the end of the meeting, Council  went into executive session to discuss a personnel matter.
The executive session lasted about 20 minutes and upon returning to open session, council adjourned.
Also during the meeting Council held a public hearing on the 2017-18 budget to which no one spoke then tabled second reading on the new budget later in the meeting. Mayor Mack Durham said a budget work session will be held Wednesday, June 7 and a special called meeting scheduled for June 12 for additional discussion and a final vote.