Week of June 4, 2003
accepts petition, delays setting election date
The Williamston election board officially presented a certified petition to Council Monday with 320 verified signatures of registered voters indicating they want the question of changing the form of government in Williamston to be decided by a referendum vote.
Upon pre-clearance by the Justice Department, Council will set an election date for a referendum within 30 to 90 days to let the towns voters decide if they want to change the form of government.
Town Council had the option to call for an election to decide the question. However, Councilmembers indicated that they would support the change if the residents want it changed, but would rely on the referendum to make the decision.
The signatures were verified by the Anderson County Election Board. According to the summary report provided with the certified petition, of the 468 signatures obtained, 320 of the signatures were found to be valid.
Organizers needed to have 15 percent of the towns registered voters, or 302 valid signatures, for the petition to be certified and the request for an election to be valid.
The summary report showed 20 signatures were rejected because the board determined that the signature was not the voters or the signature was missing.
Also, 6 were inactive voters; 3 were duplicate signatures; 78 had signatures or information insufficient to locate application; 27 were not registered voters, 14 were not in the municipality. A total of 148 signatures were rejected.
Organizers of the petition drive said they wanted to obtain signatures of approximately 470 registered voters as the first step in the process of allowing Williamston residents to decide if they want to change the towns strong mayor, weak council form of government to a council form of government.
If approved by referendum, the change in the form of government would be effective immediately, according to the towns attorney.
Williamston is currently governed under the mayor-council form of government.
The Council form of government, which organizers of the petition drive are pushing for, designates legislative and administrative powers of the municipality are to be vested in the town council. Each member of council, including the mayor, has one vote.
Supporters of the change have said that it is necessary to involve Council members more closely in the decisions being made in Williamstons government.
Opponents have said that the current system of government has worked fine and is the primary form of government among municipalities in the state.
Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy said he is very much opposed to changing the form of government and has stated that he believes the effort is in response to actions he has taken in recent weeks that have proven controversial.
Clardy said he will oppose the change and will do everything in his power to see that citizens are informed on the negative impact he believes it will have on the towns government.
Clardy said he will support the decision, as long as that decision is made of right and proper information.
Clardy said he plans to have a representative of the Municipal Association and the Appalachian Council of Governments provide information and answer questions the public may have concerning the change.
Supporters have said the move is necessary to include council in the decision making process and to avoid situations in which the mayor is abusing his authority.
All four of Williamstons councilmen have indicated that they are for the change if the people approve it by referendum.
Councilman Cecil Cothran said he believes the change would be a more democratic form of government for the town to operate under.
Councilman Wade Pepper agreed saying it would give four more voices on council, a total of five including the mayor.
West Pelzer Town Council will also hold an election in coming months for residents to determine the form of government for their town.
West Pelzer Council recently approved a request by Councilman Joe Turner to change the form of government to the Council form of government.
Second reading on the ordinance is expected at the June 10 meeting of Council. If approved, the question will go to a referendum for voters to decide the issue within 30-90 days.
In both cases, another election for the purpose of changing the form of government cannot be held within a four year period.
Any change in government also requires approval by the Justice Department, officials said.
West Pelzer voters elected political newcomer Peggy Paxton as their new mayor on Tuesday.
Maida Kelly and Terry Davis were also elected to two open seats on council.
According to West Pelzer Town Clerk Wanda Sutherland, Paxton received 149 votes. Her opponent Joe Turner received 45.
Four candidates were vying for the two open council seats.
Incumbent Kelly received 143 votes, Davis received 125 votes, and candidates Linda Lozano received 61 and Johnny Rogers received 41, Sutherland said.
Councilman W. E. Brown did not run for re-election.
Paxton will take the mayors seat, replacing Bill Alexander, who announced that he is retiring from the position.
She campaigned on bringing new ideas and strategies to the table to get control of the government.
Paxton said she plans to work hard to resolve water and sewer issues, to enforce ordinances, and to reduce the cost of living. Paxton also said she will address citizen concerns.
She worked on the West Pelzer Fall Festival, the community food drive and the first Christmas parade in over 40 years.
Paxton is a 1985 graduate of Parker High School with additional studies in business management and accounting. She works part-time as a bookkeeper for AP Polymers in Simpsonville.
A resident of West Pelzer for six years, Paxton, her husband Kevin, and their children Andrew and Alexandria attend West Pelzer Baptist Church.
Terry Davis said he decided to get involved since he believed that citizens were not being well represented.
Davis says that he would like to restore honesty and integrity to town government. He also emphasizes that he would like for the people to be proud of West Pelzer once again.
He also hopes to cut costs and reduce spending. Other issues of concern to Davis are the speeding of big trucks down Highway 8, enforcement of animal control laws, and solutions to water pressure problems.
Davis lives on Spring Street with his wife Faye and his children, Andy and April. He is a member of the Carolina Heights Church of God of Prophecy in Greenville.
Maida Kelly has served four years on the town council.
Kelly believes that dividing the town into wards would achieve better representation. She also feels that the town should consider annexation as well as explore more grant opportunities.
Kelly feels the town should cut any expenses or excess if possible. She would also like to see senior citizens checked on periodically.
Kelly lives on Dendy Street and has been a resident of West Pelzer for 38 years. She has a business degree and currently works as a nanny for a special needs child.
She attends West Pelzer Baptist Church and is also a member of the Eastern Star.
The old Williamston depot will be the site of a bluegrass festival Saturday June 7 that organizers hope will be the beginning of an annual event that will draw large crowds of music lovers.
Several performers will be featured at the first annual Mineral Spring Bluegrass Festival beginning at 7 p.m. including talent from Greenville, Spartanburg, Laurens and locally, according to organizer Jack Ellenburg.
Ellenburg, a local musician himself, said the event will include other local talent performing old time and bluegrass music and will offer musicians interested in participating in jam sessions or just playing on their own an opportunity to come early and set up in the park or depot area.
Persons interested in watching and listening are also invited to sit in on the free performances beginning around 3 p.m. and inside the depot beginning at 7 p.m.
There is no charge for this event, It is for the community to appreciate and enjoy, Ellenburg said.
I am excited about this, he said. Its time to move on and fall in love with some good things that make people happy.
Ellenburg said, I know the music will create that atmosphere, really the spirit is contagious too. It unwinds stress!
Ellenburg encouraged Williamston residents to come enjoy the free entertainment.
Restroom facilities will be available in the park and there is plenty of free parking. Those wanting a seat for the evening perfomance inside the depot may want to come early. There is seating available for approximately 150 persons.
There will be bleachers available for those watching the outside jams he said. Person attending are also encouraged to bring lawn chairs, Ellenburg said.
Lineup for the event inside the depot will include the Grassroots Exchange, Catfish Hollow, Cedar Top, and the Sizemore Family.
The Cedar Top bluegrass band features up tempo style bluegrass with banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass and play many songs that have the newgrass sound. Jeff Rosenthal is a very interesting banjo picker. The group has played various festivals and Rosenthal recenlty performed at the Handlebar in Greenville.
The Sizemore Family, from Simpsonville, plays and sings bluegrass and Southern gospel music. Susan sings, while husband Mike plays guitar.
Also featured at the depot will be the Catfish Hollow Band from Spartanburg. Band members include Jack Oliver, Denise OShields, Kathy Strickland, Bo Strickland and Dennis Watson.
The group plays a mix of gospel and bluegrass and have performed at many barbecue events and benefits.
Grassroots Exchange is Ellenburgs bluegrass band and features Britney Burden, Jeff Farnett, Cheryl Burden, ellenburg, Mark Harvell and Ricky Burden. They feature harmony bluegrass songs, traditional and current chart songs.
Ellenburg said he expects a number of bluegrass enthusiasts from across the upstate to join in the jam sessions throughout the day.
Jam sessions are open to anyone who plays a string instrument and will begin around 3 p.m. They will be held outside for musicians to pick and play together on any songs they may know.
The event will be held rain or shine. Drinking and drugs will not be allowed anywhere in the vicinity.
Ellenburg said the event will feature traditional bluegrass and new grass, which features more banjo and is more melodic. Its something to see four banjo pickers picking at one time, Ellenburg said.
The music is almost country, but is primarily old time music and bluegrass.
The event is also being co-organized with help of John Brannon, who is chairman of the historic depot restoration project.
Brannon said persons attending the festival can make donations which will be used for the restoration project.
Work currently underway at the depot includes carpentry on outside woodwork, finishing scrapping of old paint, paintng the outside of the facility and finishing two inside restrooms.
Electricity is available and heating and cooling is planned to be added later this year.
Both men are avid bluegrass supporters and said they can see the event growing to the point where it could draw as many at 10,000 people.
Williamston will have another townwide event to kick off the summer months, Ellenburg said. Hopefully having people in town will help businesses and bring in thousands of dollars to the economy, he said.
The groups are coming for free to help with the event. Many will come just for their love for the music, he said.
We hope the community will support the event and the idea and go forward. We think it will be a great thing, only getting bigger and better, Ellenburg said.
Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy announced the town is planning a July 4th Freedom Celebration and that restoration work will begin soon on the old restroom building located in Mineral Spring Park.
During the meeting Monday, Council also unanimously approved second reading on a budget amendment, received a petition from the town election board and heard details of an anticipated increase in insurance rates for employees.
Clardy said the Freedom Celebration will be held June 28 and will include fireworks, a teen dance with a DJ, and an old fashioined community cookout in Mineral Spring Park.
Clardy said the dance costs will be covered by a $2 admission charge.
Clardy said the fireworks event will cost the town approximately $3,000. The town also budgeted $1,000 for an employee cookout which will be held in conjunction with the event.
He also said that security will be provided by State constables which will eliminate overtime for the towns police officers for security for the event.
He also said he plans to use constables for security during the Spring Water Festival in August for the same reason.
The Freedom Celebration was approved 5-0 by Council.
Clardy said that two PARD grants and matching funding obtained with the help of Anderson County Council District Seven representative Cindy Wilson will pay for renovations to the old restroom building in the park.
Clardy said he hopes the renovations, which will include replacing the roof, fixtures and interior of the facilities, are finished in time for the facility to be used for the Spring Water Festival in August.
Clardy also announced that the next Municipal Association meeting will be held in September and will be held in Williamston.
Town Clerk Hala Cochran told Council that a 12.5 percent increase is expected in employee insurance premiums effective July 1.
Other increases include doctor office copay for regular and specialist from $20/$30 to $25/$35, prescription drug for generic, formulary and non-preferred from $10/$24/$44 to $12/$27/$50 and emergency room visit deductible from $50 to $100.
Council unanimously approved the resolution 5-0.
Clardy said the increase was included in the 2003 budget figures as well as a cost of living increase. This is one of the main issues municipalities are having to deal with, he said.
Council also accepted a petition to change the form of government from Municipal Election Board Chairman Jerry Davis.
Town attorney Richard Thompson advised the town to affirm the vote on first reading and send it to the justice department for pre-clearance prior to setting a date for the election.
The referendum must be held within 30-90 days.
Thompson said the 30 to 90 day requirement would be on hold until you get something back from the justice department.
Thompson said that once the election is held, and if approved, the elected officials will serve out their terms. There is a change of duties at that point, he said.
Thompson said the code has a sample ballot and the amendment exactly as it should be done.
Clardy said he wanted to educate the constituents. I intend to take advantage of the time to educate them on how it will affect our municipality. I support it as long as that decision is made of right and proper information, he said.
Council approved the first reading 5-0.
Clardy also asked Council to consider establishing a drought ordinance in response to a S. C. Department of Natural Resources requirement that all water providers provide a responses to state mandated drought conditions.
Clardy said the towns responses will result in lower insurance premiums.
Council then went into a 1.5 hour executive session to discuss personnel and items of a contractural nature.
Upon returning to regular session, Council adjourned.
Correction: During the May 7 meeting of Williamston Town Council, Larry Rachels of Belton Drive, Williamston, said that he did not have concerns with the mayors car being used for personal use, but he did have serious concerns with council receiving money for insurance for spouses.
The Town of Williamston is looking at $2.3 million to $2.5 million in improvements to alleviate overflow and infiltration problems with the towns sewer system, according to a recent study report presented to Council by Bill Dunn, of Dunn and Associates Engineering Inc.
Dunn said he looked at several situations within the town including overflow problems with two trunk sewer lines and problems at the waster water treatment plant.
The report states that two existing trunk sewer lines are overflowing in a number of locations in town, particularly during moderate to heavy rainfalls.
Overflows of a trunk line serving both of the towns mills, Mount Vernon and Milliken Cushman plant and residents in the area are attributed to insufficient line sizes during dry weather as well as inflitration and inflow during wet weather.
The report recommends a parallel relief sewer line to serve the Mt. Vernon mill area and constructing an equalization basin to store stormwater at the treatment plant until it can be treated to help alleviate much of the problems.
Dunn said the Towns treatment plant has a capacity of one million gallons per day and normally operates at 650,000 gallons per day.
During a period of substantial rainfall, the capacity may exceed 1.2 to 1.5 million gallons, he said. Dunn also said that during heavy rainfall, infiltration is a problem because a lot of storm water enters the sewer system.
He said much of the inflow could be from broken lines, holes in covers, and from older homes in the area that have roof drains that are tied into the lines.
Dunn said all of the problems need to be corrected.
A mechanical upgrade and adding an additional holding basin at the treatment plant were also suggested.
According to Dunn, there is a problem with a bar screen at the treatment plant which has to be raked by hand. Solids build up on the bar and cause a backup in the flow, he said.
The system needs a mechanical bar screen, he said.
Dunn also recommended construction of a sideline, equalization basin to store storm water until it can be treated at the plant. He proposed a one million gallon storage tank with the approximate cost of $703,000.
He also recommended installing a new sewer trunk line to serve the mill areas.
Dunn said the existing 8 inch lines serving the area have a .5 million gallon capacity per day and that the industry and customers that contribute to the flow, along with a tremendous amount of storm water, was causing problems.
He recommended that a new 15 inch diameter pipe be installed and leave the old pipe in place. The new line would have an approximate cost of $685,000.
He also said a 12 inch trunk line on Big Creek which serves the drainage area north of the Mt. Vernon/Milliken trunk line and approximately 1,800 homes, exceeds capacity during dry weather and certainly would not have capacity during periods of rain and when additional stormwater is in the system.
Dunn also said the town should consider an infiltration and inflow study to measure dry and wet weather flow.
He estimated the study and some repair work to cost approximately $750,000.
Dunn also recommended a sludge removal process on two basins at the treatment plant, with an approximate cost of $100,000 each.
Dunn recommended the town install the new trunk line to serve the Mt. Vernon Mill and the sideline basin at the same time to allow a greater inflow capacity at the treatment plant.
Together the projects will cost approximately $1.39 to $1.5 million.
He advised the town would need approximately $2.5 million for all three projects, not including the Big Creek trunk line project.
Mayor Phillip Clardy said the towns sewer problems are not going to go away.
These are problems that have accumulated over the last 50 years, he said.
The town will be pursuing grants to help with the necessary repairs tha mayor said. We will have to have outside assistance, he said.
Anderson County Council supported a resolution to execute an agreement setting in motion $33 million of sewer improvements over the next five years at its regular meeting Tuesday.
The agreement allows for sharing the cost of improvements to treatment plants at Generostee Creek and Rocky River with the city of Anderson and Homeland Park based on the capacity that each entity would receive. The county plans to pay its portion through a .003 sewer levy.
Council member Cindy Wilson led the opposition to the resolution by sponsoring a presentation outlining past sewer improvement problems. Big Creek Watershed Commissioner Teresa Morgan presented pictures of sewer problems in Williamstons Mineral Spring Park, Gatewood subdivision and along Cannon Bottom Road near the Saluda River and encouraged council members to think about the long term effects of such problems. Dan Harvell of the Anderson County Taxpayers Association referenced conflicting figures in the resolution and described the cost of the project as a moving target. Wilson showed slides questioning the manner of installation by the county of a line in the Beaverdam area. Members of the Lake Secession Homeowners Association were also present to add their opposition to the resolution.
County Administrator Joey Preston responded by showing pictures of the current condition of the area described by Wilson. Council member Gracie Floyd said the photos presented by Wilson were taken at an inopportune time and that the problems illustrated were corrected.
Five council members voted to support the sewer resolution. Wilson cast the only opposing vote, and Holden was absent at the time of the vote.
Council also approved a resolution authorizing letters to the city of Anderson and the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) concerning the renewal of a discharge permit for the Rocky River treatment plant. The resolution appeared to be a response to a letter written by Wilson to DHEC requesting a public hearing on the expansion of the Rocky River plant. Apparently, confusion developed as to whether Wilson was speaking for her district or for the entire council in the letter. Council member Larry Greer supported Wilsons right to write the letter but said the letter should have contained a disclaimer since it was perceived that she was acting in an official capacity for the council.
Calling the situation totally bizarre, Wilson attempted to set the record clear right now and described previous council votes involving engineering firm Design South as tainted.
Council member Gracie Floyd offered no response when Wilson asked directly, When did your son start to work for Design South?
Describing himself as plowing the same ground twice, Greer presented test report results showing that the water out of the treatment plant is better and cleaner than the water in the river and that tests indicated that the river water was not recommended for recreational use.
Floyd presented a $27,000 proposal for a summer work program employing 20 students age 15 or older. Students would work a minimum of 20 hours per week assisting county personnel in clerical duties. Floyd allotted $21,000 from her recreation account for the project with Holden adding $6,000 from his paving account with the approval of the council. Floyd encouraged council members to add their support to the effort which would promote community relations and hopefully develop future county employees.
In other votes, the council unanimously approved the third reading of two ordinances authorizing infrastructure credits and a fee in lieu of tax agreement between Anderson County and Fraenkische USA.
The third reading of an ordinance regulating the use of taxicab services in the county received unanimous approval.
The first reading of an ordinance to rezone 35 acres on Stringer Road at Traynum Road from R-A (residential agriculture) to R-40 (single family residential) received unanimous council approval.
Council unanimously approved Wilsons request for $6,325 for paving at the Honea Path Community Center, $2,126 to renovate restrooms at Mineral Spring Park in Williamston, and $7,490 for paving at Craytonville Fire Department.
Wilson also sponsored a resolution honoring Palmettos Brandi Jackson on the conclusion of her outstanding collegiate and amateur golfing career.