2402 June 12 -

West Pelzer Mayor resigns; councilman stays on

Despite an ongoing question concerning where he resides, West Pelzer Councilman Wendel Trotter said he will remain on Council.

The decision, which Trotter said is legal and supported by a majority of council members, led to a resignation announcement by Mayor Bill Alexander.

Trotter recently purchased a  house in Crompton Place, a subdivision located just outside of the West Pelzer town limits and had previously announced that he was resigning.

Trotter said he will abide by Council wishes concerning his position on Council. At a recent budget workshop, an informal vote of the three councilmembers present showed he should stay.

Trotter said the informal vote was taken at the meeting after informal discussions about the situation.

Councilman Joe Turner, who opposes Trotter’s decision to remain on Council, said he did not vote at the meeting because he thought it was an illegal vote on an item not on the agenda for that meeting.

Trotter said it was not illegal because it was an informal vote of the Council members present which included Mayor pro-tem Maida Kelly, Earl Brown and Turner. Neither Mayor Alexander nor Trotter were present.

Trotter said he will abide by a Council decision if the vote is taken on an agenda item during a regular meeting, however he said the legal advice he has received is that he can remain on Council.

West Pelzer Attorney Carey B. Murphy was asked by Council to investigate the legal qualifications of being a councilman. He told Council that they will ultimately have to decide on the issue, however there are certain requirements which have to be met.

“He has to be a resident,” Murphy said, and meet S. C. law qualifications and the definition of residency which he said is based upon intent as to where one resides.

“A municipal representative has to have residency within the district to sit on Council,” Murphy said.

To decide, you have to look at intent which includes drivers license, voters registration, where you live, taxes, mailing address, etc., according to Murphy.

“You have to be in compliance with state statutes,” Murphy said.

Mayor Alexander also said the discussion and vote taken at the workshop meeting were illegal.

He also announced that he was resigning his position as Mayor.

“As of the end of the month, I resign,” he said.

After the meeting, Trotter said he has received advice and opinion from several State and legal sources and based on what he was told, he believes he can legally remain on Council and finish his term which expires in one year, if Council agrees.

“Where you sleep doesn’t matter,” Trotter said.

“Everything I have, legally is in West Pelzer,” Trotter said. “People that know the law say legally, I reside on Dendy St.”

Trotter said his drivers license, mail and other items which are used to indicate residency entitle him to legally remain on Council.

“I will abide by Council decision,” Trotter said.

A crowd of about 20 citizens showed up for the regular monthly meeting Tuesday, most to show support for Trotter’s decision not to resign his position on Council and to voice concerns over announced sewer and water rate increases and other items.

After the discussion on Trotter’s status, Council approved first reading on the new budget. (Details in next week’s Journal)

Joe Turner was elected Mayor pro-tem. There was also dicsussion on filling a poll committee and election commission position for the Town.

Council also fielded questions from citizens concerned with announced sewer rate increases and other items.

John Ford Sr., a resident of West Pelzer since 1955, asked Council several questions including the reason for a RD (Rural Development) charge of $4.50 on his water bill.

Appalachian Council of Governments representative George McDaniel responded that the charge was on the bill to generate money for re-payment on a loan for the sewer tie in to Western Carolina.

He went on to say that it is not the desire of the Town to raise rates, but the Town has a history of not raising rates necessary to pay for sewer and infrastructure repairs and replacement through the years.

He said there was a large deficit in the 2001 water and sewer fund and the Town is still running a deficit.

 He said the first reading on the new budget reflects a balanced budget, but he said the second reading will reflect additional rate increases necessary to pay for expenses  in the budget.

“Sewer rates will be going up,”  he said.

The problem, according to McDaniel, is that the costs of upgrading and running the system is spread over only about 400 customers.

Using the town of Iva as an example, he said, “They were forced to increase water and sewer rates $10 right off. The rates weren’t raised over a period of years.”

Responding to a suggestion that the town should unincorporate, McDaniel said if the Town goes out of business, it can’t just go away.

“The money owed to Rural Development must still be re-paid, and they will sell it (the water/sewer system) to some private company, which will in turn raise rates higher,” he said.

McDaniel said the Town is also addressing problems with water and sewer leaks on the system.

Mayor Alexander said West Pelzer has recently received help from Anderson County Council representatives Cindy Wilson and Bill Dees who requested that Anderson County Council provide $4000 for repairs to the aging sewer system, $3,000 for repacement of a pump and $8,500 for work necessary at the waste water treatment plant.

Mayor Alexander said that during his time as Mayor, town employees have been very loyal and dedicated in serving the Town.

He praised Mark Vickery and Michael Mahaffey of the Public Works Department for working long hours, being on call anytime situations arose and for their efforts which have saved the town money.

He pointed out recent repairs made at the waste water treatment plant which would have cost the Town about $40,000 if an outside contractor had done the work.

Alexander also praised Town Clerk Wanda Sutherland, Police Chief Anthony Smith and the police department for their dedication to their jobs.






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