Pelzer Council wrestles with selling cell tower land, sewer system


By Stan Welch
During a meeting last Tuesday, the Pelzer Town Council accepted bids on several projects.
The low bid of $2400 was approved for the removal of a dead tree near the playground in Wardlaw Park. Several other trees in the park will be pruned as well.
The cost of replacing all the swings in both Wardlaw and the monkey park will be $1736, including more than six hundred dollars in shipping. Special playground equipment for handicapped children, including a platform swing that will accommodate a wheelchair, will cost $2719.
The spirit of cooperation that led to unanimous votes on all of those expenses ended abruptly, when the proposed sale of the ground beneath the cell phone tower was addressed. The split essentially came down to one between the older veteran members of council and the two relative newcomers. The absence of a fifth and possibly deciding vote also came into play for the first time since Ragland’s victory in the mayoral race vacated his council seat; a seat that has yet to be filled.
And as usual, several members of the audience also joined the discussion, causing Mayor Will Ragland to sharply remind them several times not to interrupt.
The main issue is the question of whether the proceeds of the sale ($700,000) could be encumbered by the town’s debt related to the recent water and sewer upgrades.
Councilman Mike Matthews raised that question at the last meeting, and Ragland instructed the town attorney, Richard Thompson, to research the matter. Thompson reported Tuesday night that he had found no indication that there would be any encumbrance, but the audience didn’t buy it, and continued to inject themselves into the discussion. They asked if the first phase of the upgrade might have different conditions than the second phase.
Thompson repeated that the bond attorneys who prepared the bond issue for the upgrades to the system assured him that the proceeds of the water and sewer department were the security, adding that it is that condition that gives RDA so much authority and influence. A secondary issue was whether it would be more advantageous to the town to continue receiving the monthly lease payment on the land (less than $2000 a month) or take the lump sum, and use the funds over time to match grant requirements and leverage additional money.
Ragland argued that the sale would enable the town to more quickly address important issues, such as the renovation of the old hospital for use as the town hall. “These are projects that we hear about all the time. We are a small town and don’t have the means to obtain large amounts of money. This is just such an opportunity.” Skip Goldsmith, participating in only his second meeting as a councilman argued that if the tower becomes obsolete in the fast changing world of cell technology, the lessee, American Tower, has the authority to terminate the contract, while the town is locked in for another thirty years. “So, if they decide the tower no longer meets their needs, they can just walk away and we’ll have nothing.” Nevertheless, Matthews and councilman Eddie Waits voted against the proposal, while Ragland and Goldsmith voted for it. The motion failed as a result of the tie.
The council then proceeded to vote to seek bids on new garage doors for the town maintenance building, and for a new roof for the hospital building. They then adjourned, and proceeded immediately to a presentation on the proposed branding of the town.
Representatives of Lunchbox Creative explained what they would do and how they would do it. Their efforts cover a number of areas, such as creation of a town logo, a municipal flag, an official letterhead for the town’s paperwork , an upgrade of the town’s website, and other approaches.
They then asked the audience for their ideas on several matters, such as the type of font to be used in the print aspects of the branding, or the color palette they preferred, the composition of such items. The crowd was polite but hardly enthusiastic, asking not one single question at the end of the presentation.
The proposed timetable calls for the compilation of a photo album of iconic scenes and locations from the town by September; a second public forum in November to receive public input; presentation of the logo in December; and the website upgrade by February.