(4706) Week of Nov. 22, 2006
Shoppers to enjoy sales tax holiday
The Friday following Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year for retailers, and as if they needed it, shoppers will have an extra incentive to spend more money this Friday and Saturday, and save an extra 5 percent while they are doing it.
In June, South Carolina lawmakers approved a one-time tax free holiday for Nov. 24 and 25, suspending the 5 percent sales tax on all retail items, including vehicles, according to information provided by the S. C. Department of Revenue.
A report from the South Carolina Board of Economic Advisors estimates shoppers will save aproximately $18 million in sales taxes.
The one-time sales tax holiday applies to all purchases except accommodations and additional guest charges.
It applies to purchases made by businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations as well as purchases made by individuals.
The sales tax holiday applies to the state sales and use tax, the state casual excise tax and the Catawba Indian tribal sales tax, according to the Department of Revenue.
It does not include sales and use taxes on behalf of counties and school districts or to local hospitality taxes and local accommodations taxes collected directly by a county or municipality.
The 48 hour sales tax holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on November 24 and ends at 12 midnight on Nov. 25.
The sales tax exemption also applies to purchases of motor vehicles, motorcycles, boats, motors and airplanes during the two day sales tax holiday.
By Stan Welch
Several PARD grants were awarded at last weeks Anderson County Delegation meeting. The amount of funds requested far outreached the funds available, so many of the grants were reduced by as much as fifty per cent.
Among those receiving grants from the Parks and Recreational Development funds were Pelzer, which received its full request of $5000. Piedmont Public Service District saw its request cut to $5000, as did Iva, Honea Path and a project slated for Hurricane Spring Park. The city of Belton, which was seeking almost $24,000 to upgrade lighting at the middle school received $6000. The Town of Williamston neither sought nor received funds in this funding cycle.
The total of $31,000 available for disbursement was less than half of the $74,850 sought.
The delegation, with two new State Representatives, Don Bowen of District 8 and Mike Gambrell of District 7, reorganized slightly. Former Chairman Ronny Townsend did not seek reelection this year, and Rep. Brian White was elected to that position. Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Dan Cooper was elected vice chairman, while Rep. Michael Thompson retained the secretarys position.
Representatives White and Thompson joined Sen. Kevin Bryant on the Anderson Area Transportation Study committee, or ANATS. Senator Billy ODell retained his current seat on the Appalachian Council of Governments Board of Directors, while newcomer Don Bowen was selected to serve on the Adult Protective Services board of DSS. He will also replace Rep. Michael Thompson on the Anderson County Transportation Committee, along with Sen. ODell. Rep. Gambrell, who is a volunteer fire chief, was selected to the Local Emergency Planning Committee.
Representative Brian White also proposed a special study committee, to study Anderson Countys road needs. The committee will comprise a member from each of the seven County Council districts, as well as one at large member from each of the two Senate districts, for a total membership of nine.
Said Chairman White, We hope to get this committee established and appointed soon. They will answer to the county delegation, which will give us good input from the people we serve. I expect that the appointees will represent a good diverse group of folks.
Senator ODell clearly supported the idea, saying that it was a great idea. With everything going on at SCDOT right now, if we dont have a plan to offer and a strategy to pursue these funds, well be left holding the bag.
Parades, lights, shopping and other special events will highlight the holiday season locally this year.
First on the calendar is the opening of the Williamston Christmas Park, set for this Saturday, November 25, at 6 p.m. This years theme is Sharing the Season.
The opening night ceremony will include carriage rides, live entertainment, lighting of the park and the Municipal Center, and of course the entrance of Santa Claus on the towns antique fire truck. There will be complimentary refreshments available.
The event will also include open house at the Williamston Muncipal Center featuring Deck the Halls.
A variety of trees decorated by local businesses, organizations and individuals will line the hallways at town hall November 25 through Jan. 1. Hours are Monday - Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 6 p.m to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
A first edition long sleeve shirt will also be available this holiday seaon.
The white shirts have a two color print on the front and back featuring hand drawn artwork by Cedar Grove Elementary students Chandler Bell and Brandon Phillips.
They are available at ERS Video and Appliance and Colorfast Screen Print in Williamston. Adult sizes are $12, childrens sizes are $10.
Organizers of the annual holiday event said that more than 65 unique displays are expected to be placed in the park this year.
Next on the calendar, The Town of Pelzer will host the 2nd annual Holiday Fair on Friday, December 1 from 6:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the Pelzer Gym.
There will be lots of vendors and something for everyone, said Mayor Kenneth Davis.
Door prizes will be given throughout the evening and refreshments will be served. Persons attending are being asked to bring a non-perishable food item to benefit the local food pantry. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Pelzer Youth Recreation.
For more information or vendor registration, contact Kenneth Davis at 947-1485 or Heather Holcombe at 947-2814.
Pelzer and West Pelzer will host a Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 2 at 3 p.m.
Entries should register by Dec. 1 and there is no fee. The parade will begin at the West Pelzer Fire Department and end at Courtney St. in Pelzer. For additional information, call West Pelzer Town Hall at 947-6297.
The Piedmont Christmas Parade will be held on Saturday, December 9th at 11a.m.. This years theme will be Christmas - A Time For Giving.
The Bonnes Amies Club will sponsor the parade. Organizers ask spectators to bring items for needy families which will be picked up along the parade route. Items needed are: flour, sugar, and canned goods.
Area businesses, churches, organizations, and individuals are encouraged to participate in the parade, as well as Marching Bands, dance groups, school groups, and Boy and Girl Scouts.
The club will also sponsor their annual Veterans Reception immediately following the parade at the First Baptist Church social hall. All veterans from any branch of service or any war are encouraged to ride in the parade.
The Bonnes Amies Club will provide the bus or float for the veterans to ride.
Miss and Master Merry Christmas will be decided by penny a vote, and a float for the winners will be sponsored by the Bonnes Amies.
There will be trophies for the winning floats in several categories. For more information call Betty White at 845-5543 or Paige Crawford at 244-3435.
The Williamston Christmas Parade will be held the same day, Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. The theme will be Keep Christ in Christmas.
Chairman Walter Smith says there is no fee to enter the parade, just bring plenty of candy.
The parade will start at the traffic light at the end of Hamilton Street and Greenville Drive and will stop at Calvary Baptist Church.
Registration forms for the Williamston Christmas Parade will be available at the city hall. To be judged, entries must be registered by city hall by December 7. Call 847-7473, give your name and type of entry. Judges will be in front of City Hall.
Lineup for the parade will be a double line formed on Hamilton St. Trophies will be given out at the city hall immediately following the parade.
Rain date will be Dec. 16. For more info call Smith at 847-7929.
The South Greenville Community will also host a parade on December 9 beginning at 2 p.m. The first annual Country Christmas Parade will begin at the Old Hundred Road and Hwy. 418 and end at Old Hundred Road and Reedy Fork Road. For information contact South Greenville Fire Department at 864-243-5650.
The holiday season will officially kick off locally with the opening ceremony for the Williamston Christmas Park set for this Saturday, November 25, at 6 p.m.
This years theme is Sharing the Season.
Members of the Springwater Committee, which coordinated the 2006 Spring Water Festival, are coordinating a number of special events and displays for the 2006 Christmas Park.
In doing so, they are helping the town continue the holiday tradition which has been ongoing, except for one year, since 1958.
Also helping this year are AFJROTC cadets from Palmetto High School and other community service volunteers.
The opening night ceremony will include horse drawn carriage rides, live entertainment, remarks by local officials, lighting of the park and the municipal center, and of course the entrance of Santa Claus on the towns antique fire truck.
\Entertainment for the evening will be provided by Janey Turner, Papas Angels and John Rutland.
Janey Turner is known for Hands for Soldiers a non-profit organization she started in December 2003 to send care packages to servicemen around the world.
Janey has a beautiful voice that will touch your heart. She has been singing since the age of two. She will truly bless you.
Papas Angels is a grandfather, Kevin Smalley, and his granddaughter Tiffany Cunningham singing together. Tiffany has been singing since age seven. They make the perfect team blending their voices together singing Gospel favorites. They often go into nursing homes sharing the Gospel and love of the Lord.
John Rutland has a soulful, bluesy, voice, a combination of Ray Charles, Rod Stewart and Taylor Hicks all rolled up into one. He loves to volunteer for fundraisers and benefits and to show the love of the Lord.
All three will be singing Christmas and Gospel songs.
Whispering Winds Carriage Company will offer carriage rides from the Williamston Municipal Center through the Christmas Park on Saturday only. This special event will be $5 per person.
After arriving on the fire truck, Santa will be in the scout hut from 6 to 9 p.m. nightly through December 23. Photos with Santa will be offered with a variety of print sizes and options.
Deck the Halls at the Williamston Municipal Center will feature themed decorated Christmas trees. Businesses, churches, organizations or individuals interested in displaying a themed decorated Christmas tree in the halls of the Muncipal Center are invited to participate.
There will be complimentary refreshments available during the opening night ceremony and at various other times during the holiday season.
A long sleeve shirt featuring artwork by two Cedar Grove elementary students will also be available to remember the event.
The first edition Christmas Park shirt is a two color long sleeve shirt featuring artwork by Cedar Grove Elementary students.
The white shirt features red and green prints of the spring house gazebo with elves on the front designed by Chandler Bell and Santa in a school bus designed by Brandon Phillips on the back.
They are available at ERS Video and Appliance and Colorfast Screen Print in Williamston. Adult sizes are $12, childrens sizes are $10.
Proceeds from the shirts will go toward improvements in the park, organizers said.
Organizers of the annual holiday event say that more than 65 unique displays from businesses, churches and other organizations are expected to be placed in the park this year. Many of the displays will be new.
Anyone planning to place a display in the park is reminded that an application must be submitted and the display must be in place and ready by 6 p.m. opening night. Anyone interested in placing a lighted display in the park is urged to contact Dianne Lollis right away.
The committee is also still accepting applications from individuals, choral groups or others interested in providing holiday related entertainment on the amphitheater stage and/or providing complimentary hot chocolate and/or coffee, cider, etc., to visitors, organizers said. Times and dates are still being finalized.
If your organization would like to participate in the Christmas Park, call Lollis at 864-847-5743.
Anyone interested in placing a decorated tree in the Hall of Lights at the Williamston Muncipal Center is also asked to contact Lollis.
The Greater Williamston Business Association now has 2006 Collectors Christmas Ornaments available. This year there are three to choose from.
The new 2006 ornament features longtime Williamston resident and educator, Ms. Leona Parker. Also available is a reissue of the popular Dr. Dwight H. Smith ornament that was made available in 2005 and a memorial issue in purple and white.
The new ornament is a pink with burgundy imprint of Ms. Parker reading to a child. The ornament recognizes Parker for 50 plus years of service. Parker is the second person to be recognized on the annual ornament.
Parker was honored Dec. 2, 2003 with a party celebrating her 80th birthday at the Williamston Municipal Center. A crowd of approximately 50 friends and well wishers gathered for the event which included signing red apple Christmas ornaments for a Miss Parker Christmas tree that was on display. The tree is included in the Deck The Halls event at Williamston Municipal Center.
Parker entered the new school built in Williamston in 1939, which was built at the present site, after the Williamston Female College was removed. She graduated in 1941 from high school and entered Montreat College, graduating in 1943. Parker began teaching 3rd and 4th grades at Cedar Grove after graduating college. She taught 1st and 2nd grade for three years at Gossett School and then went to the old Williamston High School, teaching 3rd and 4th grade. She taught until her retirement in 1978, resulting in a teaching career covering 33 years.
During the summers from 1943 to 1955, Parker went to summer school at Furman University and received her B.A. degree in 1955.
She substituted until 2000, when she began volunteering. As recent as 2003 she was still volunteering with first graders at Spearman Elementary School.
She attended the Williamston Presbyterian Church, where she played piano for the Sunday School since about 1940. She played the organ for church services for many years and was also a member of the choir. She has been a member of the Williamston Presbyterian Church since 1939 and taught Sunday School for 40 years. Parker also visited shut-ins and sick persons.
The reissue ornament features Dr. Dwight Smith on his bicycle in winter attire, The first order of the popular Christmas item sold out by mid October and GWBA members reordered several times to meet demand.
The 2005 ornament is clear red with a silver imprint and wording 50 + years of service to the community.
The ornament is the first to recognize an individual associated with the community.
A special purple and white memorial ornament honoring Dr. Smith is also available.
Other ornaments have featured Palmetto High School Mustang 1954-2004, G. F. Tolly Furniture Store, Grace Methodist Church, W. C. Ellison Roller Mill, Williamston Female College, the Historic Depot, Scout Hut and the Municipal Center. Others have recognized the lighted angels on Main St. and even Santa.
The GWBA Collectors Christmas ornaments are available at Greater Williamston Business Association member locations for $5.
A limited supply of retired ornaments is also available for $7 each for persons hoping to complete their collection. Special four packs of previously issued ornaments are available for $25. Retired ornaments are available at MV Pizza and The Journal.
By Stan Welch
A two per cent hospitality fee , which has been suggested several times by Williamston Town Councilman Otis Scott in recent months, has proved to be a windfall for other towns in the area.
Scott first raised the question of such a fee on all prepared foods sold in town at the first of the year, when the Towns financial condition had to be acknowledged. Council has recently given the idea serious consideration, preparing a draft ordinance for review and consideration. Revenue figures from nearby towns, which have implemented the fee, are very promising.
Iva, for example, enacted such a tax in May of 2005, at the same two per cent level. Since then, the town has collected more than $55,000. Iva, with a population of two thousand, is approximately half the size of Williamston.
Iva Town Administrator Tim Taylor said, The only time there was a fuss over the tax was just before we passed it. Since then, people dont notice it, and they dont complain about it. The great thing about this particular tax is that eighty-five per cent of the people who eat in town arent residents, so we have other people contributing the lions share of the revenues we receive.
Honea Path Mayor Lollis Meyers said that his town collected approximately $58,000 last year from their two per cent fee. It frees up a lot of money that we would have to use other wise. I dont know anybody that questions the tax anymore. It just raises too much money, and its designated for only certain uses, so it gets spent where its supposed to. Honea Path has a population of approximately 4500 people.
Both Iva and Honea Path have had the tax in place for approximately one year. Ware Shoals, with a population of approximately 2,400, has had the tax since 2004, and has between $65,000 and $70,000 in the account at present. Town Clerk Heather Fields reports that so far the only expenditure has been to pay for a survey for the towns West End District project, which is being conducted under a SCDOT grant.
That project is expected to bring more people to Ware Shoals. We also have several other projects in line that the hospitality tax money can help with. Its just nice to have another stable source of revenue, said Fields.
Councilman Scott, who has been the central supporter of the fee says he has had no one speak against it to him. I hope well get it passed. Im putting it up for first reading at the December 4 meeting. That money can take a lot of load off the general fund. For example, the Little League baseball can be supported by it. We can spend money on the Spring Water Park, and we can use the money to promote the Spring Water Festival. Its just an awful lot of money to leave on the table.
According to town records, there are eighteen establishments in town that serve prepared food, and which would likely be subject to the fee. The draft of the proposed ordinance states that the conditions which allow the surcharge to be called a fee instead of a tax are in place.
A public hearing will be held on the fee prior to any final approval. All revenues collected will be placed in a separate account, and can be used only for purposes designated in Section 6-1-730 of the S.C. Code of Laws.
Those uses include but are not limited to, tourism related buildings, such as civic centers or coliseums; tourism related cultural, historical or recreational facilities; highways, roads bridges and streets providing access to tourism destinations; advertising and promoting tourism development, and water and sewer infrastructure related to tourism development.
Williamston Mayor Phillip Clardy said that the town is in the process of doing an impact study to determine revenue sources and what the revenues could be used for.
Public comment will be accepted on the proposal at the next meeting of Council, set for December 4.
By Stan Welch
The South Greenville Fire Department recycles aluminum cans to raise money for various uses. Last week, it recycled a couple larger hunks of metal, presenting a pumper truck to the Michelin Company, and a fire equipment step van to Greenville Tech.
The pumper truck, donated to the Michelin fire brigade, represents the largest and most specialized piece of fire fighting equipment at Michelins Donaldson Center campus. Valued at $50,000, the truck will provide immediate fire suppression capabilities on the campus, providing a crucial jump on future fires, while crews access hydrants in the area.
Mandy Bolt, Michelins industrial fire brigade chief, explained that the pumper represents a whole new level of fire fighting capacity. We have a volunteer brigade at the plant, as well as a security cadre which is professionally prepared for such events as fires. But this truck is a whole new step in fire suppression, compared to where we are now.
The step van was donated to Greenville Tech, to be used in its firefighter training program, the only one of its kind in the state. The fire service technology program is the only program in the state certified to train firefighters to accepted national standards. Philip Hill, the program director, said that the two semester course brings the trainee to the National Fire Protection Association Level 2 standards. This program allows us to train firefighters here, while they are still available to their departments and communities, instead of at the fire academy in Columbia.
SGFD Chief Ken Taylor agreed. That is a huge advantage to both the departments and the trainees. We have our firefighters available, and they are receiving hands on training at the same time.
The course can also be taken over the internet, allowing its use throughout the state. Were developing a program to attain more advanced standards of training, said Hill.
Taylor said the step van, which was valued at $5000, would be replaced by mid December with a heavy rescue truck, capable of heavy auto extraction, confined space rescues, hazmat response and fire fighting. It will be crewed by four people twenty-four hours, seven days a week. It will be a huge advance for us, since we had been using the step van to haul different devices and equipment around. A larger pumper is also on the way to replace the donated unit.
Michelin maintains a fire brigade, and they let their employees respond to calls while at work. That is a great benefit to the area. We train with those folks, and we have always enjoyed a great working relationship with them. Were glad to be able to improve their fire fighting capabilities with this donation of equipment, said Chief Taylor.
By Stan Welch
One week after giving first reading approval to a 2006-07 budget that was supposed to be approved in June, the West Pelzer Town Council came very close to completely undoing what had been done. Instead, the Council, over the Mayors opposition, approved a strange hybrid budget that removed all rate increases for water, sewer and sanitation services.
Those rate increases have been conceded to be necessary by every member of Council, yet have been fought at every turn, especially by long time Council veteran Joe Turner. It was Turner who led the revolt Monday night, making a motion to accept the old budget, with no rate increases; but with all the cost cutting measures Council had adopted in a preliminary budget several weeks ago.
Those measures included reducing the police force to two officers and Chief Bernard Wilson. That force is unable to provide around the clock police protection, a point Mayor Peggy Paxton again stressed. The idea behind collecting taxes is to use them to provide services. If we arent going to do that, we shouldnt even collect the money.
The water and sewer rates were originally slated for an increase from $12 for the first thousand gallons used to $14, with an increase to $2.90 for each additional thousand gallons used. During budget discussions last week, those rates were reduced to $13 instead of $14, with the rate for additional use set at the $2.90 level.
The rates were increased in order to offset two recent increases which the town experienced, and absorbed, in the wholesale rate the town pays for water from Greenville Water. The higher rates were also intended to begin building a contingency fund, or a cushion, to help ease the impact of anticipated repair costs to the Towns outmoded water lines, especially once a current upgrade is brought on line.
Mayor Paxton, speaking after the meeting, said, Last week they were fussing about the town losing almost forty per cent of the water it buys without ever collecting on it from customers, because of the leaks and breaks in our lines. Now, we have a chance to build a fund to repair those lines and save those losses, and they wont raise the rates. Im trying to understand this, but Ill be honest. Im confused.
Councilman Turner, who left immediately after the meeting adjourned, and did not comment on his thoughts about the budget, said during the meeting that he just wanted to freeze everything until the first of the year, so we can see whats coming in and whats going out. Council members Maida Kelly and Marshall King, who had voted for the budget, including the rate increases the week before, changed direction Monday night, voting for Turners motion. Councilman Pete Davis was absent Monday night.
Following the 3-1 vote to approve Turners motion to remove the rate increases from the budget, Paxton pleaded and cajoled the Council to remove the rates if need be, but to approve a budget. The Rural Development Administration, or RDA, has been pushing for a budget to be adopted, so that they can calculate what the town will have to charge for its water and sewer. RDA, which will fund the towns sewer upgrades and connection to Western Carolinas new treatment plant through a combination of grants and loans, sets rates so that the revenues generated are guaranteed to be sufficient for repayment.
Unprecedented rate increases are anticipated when the town begins sending its wastewater to the new Western Carolina treatment plant on the Saluda River. Experts familiar with the situation have said that a doubling of the rates is a foregone conclusion, and that the increases could be much greater. Paxton hinted at such increases at the earlier budget hearing, saying, We know huge increases are coming. Why not do what we can to soften the blow, so they dont all come at once?
Though the recent announcement that Freedom Weekend Aloft is leaving Anderson was a disappointment to many Anderson County officials and businesses, area residents attending the annual event will not have to drive much further, just in a different direction. Simpsonvilles Heritage Park will be the site for the 2007 FWA event which will be held Memorial Day weekend May 25 through May 28.
The events Board of Directors voted Oct. 31 to accept Simpsonvilles proposal to move the nationally recognized event, which celebrated 25 years this year, to Heritage Park.
Organizers stated that the final step was the development of a contract which would be mutually agreed to by FWAs Board and The City of Simpsonville. Simpsonville Mayor Dennis Waldrop stated, I think it speaks to the great success we have had with our community. We are extremely happy about the economic impact that this is sure to have upon our community. Our hotels, restaurants and merchants should receive a great boost from this event.
FWA Executive Director Keri Hall, stated Its official and everyone involved considers this first class venue, the central Upstate location, the areas demographics as providing event organizers with a myriad of opportunities to take this event to the next level with an emphasis on continuing to build on the quality and diversity of event activities and attractions.
Organizers acknowledge that with the heightened excitement about the move to Simpsonvilles Heritage Park for future events there is at the same time a deep gratitude to the community of Anderson, a community that for the last 8 years played a key role in organizers achieving significant improvements to the event.
There will be many new and exciting activities and attractions though organizers arent sharing all the plans for 2007. Attendees can expect the staples of the event with 100 hot-air balloons, one of the countrys largest Frisbee dog competitions, nationally renowned recording artists in concert, fireworks, great food and more.
But there will be many new attractions and activities including a focus on FWAs younger attendees, organizers said.
There will also be a focus on expanding and creating more featured free concerts such as the extremely popular Memorial Day Beach Blast and an emphasis on community involvement from throughout the Upstate!
City Administrator Russell Hawes stated, Freedom Weekend Aloft is a perfect match with our facility and community. It is a family-oriented festival that heightens the quality of life in Simpsonville and the Golden Strip.
Freedom Weekend Aloft recently added to its list of national award recognitions when it was selected as one of the top 100 events in the United States and Canada, sharing the honor with the states Spoleto event.
Sandlapper magazine will be doing a feature article on Freedom Weekend Aloft and The City of Simpsonville in their spring 07 edition due in March, officials said.
Russell Hawes, City Administrator said, We look forward to hosting and building on the great success of the festival for many years to come. FWA allows us to showcase Simpsonville and everything it has to offer to a new and different audience. We look forward to working with Keri Hall and Cindy Nelson to make our first Freedom Weekend Aloft in Simpsonville the biggest and best one yet.
The Palmetto High School Competition Cheerleaders finished their 2006-07 season as the state runner-up, scoring above ten of the states best squads, but behind Liberty, at the State AA Cheer Competition held Saturday in Columbia.
The Mustangs and their followers were hoping for a repeat of the success they had last year and appeared to be having earlier this year.
The Red Devils scored 249 points to take first place at the State Championship competition. The Mustangs scored 237, just one point ahead of Pendleton, for the runner-up position.
The Mustangs have finished as State runner-up, two of the last three years and won the AA championship title last year under coach Sheri Alexander.
They started out the year with seven first place finishes in competitions leading up to the State qualifier held at Palmetto High School, where they placed third.
Rounding out the competition held at the Colonial Center were Liberty, 249; Palmetto, 237; Pendleton, 236; Crescent, 234; Mid-Carolina, 220; Buford, 206; Gilbert 206; Chesterfield, 193; Andrew Jackson, 193; Waccamaw, 187; Landrum, 174 and Woodruff, 143.
Competing on the 2007 AA State Runner-Up squad are: Jill Bagwell, Brittany Brooks, Taylor Cabaniss, Brittany Caldwell, Brittany Davenport, Brady Finley, Nikki Green, Brittany Hooker, Hannah Johnson, Chelsea Jones, Emily Mahaffey, Carson Porter, Haley Purvines, Hannah Rogers, Kelsey Smith, Haley Tribble, Brittany Vaughn, Jenna Whitten, Brooklyn Williams and Kadie Zahnd.
The Wren High Competition Cheerleaders finished 7th in the AAAA State Competitive Cheer Competition also held Saturday.
By Stan Welch
Ive been doing a little exploration into this two per cent hospitality fee that Councilman Otis Scott has been pushing since the first of the year. There is much to recommend it, not the least of which is the fact that every town in the area that has put the tax in place seems very happy with the results.
I call it a tax. Some call it a fee. Whatever you call it, it makes a one dollar ham biscuit cost one dollar and two cents. Doesnt sound like much, and it isnt. But when every ham biscuit or burrito or sub sandwich, or breakfast or pizza in town is subject to that same fee, it adds up astoundingly fast.
Iva has collected over $55,000 since May of last year. Iva! They have spent about $6000 promoting or supporting tourism related activities in their town. That leaves roughly$49,000 in the account. The town manager says the only time there was any fuss over the tax was just before it was passed. Now, nobody notices it.
Honea Path has collected more than $58,000 in a year. Ware Shoals, hardly on the beaten tourism path, has collected approximately $3,000 a month, for the last two years. Thats right folks, $72,000 dollars.
Despite all these pluses, there are still those in town who see this as some onerous, noxious tax increase, some sly and treacherous attempt to take even more money from their pockets. Some of these folks may even be on Council.
The law states clearly that the funds will be kept in a separate account, and can only be spent on a limited number of uses, all tourist related. But there are clearly serious issues of trust that still exist between the Mayor and the Council and citizens of Williamston. If this is one of the factors that causes opposition to this fee/tax, those in opposition should remember this. Nothing has changed in the way the town government works. It is still up to the Council members to be vigilant concerning the operations of the Town. If members of Council arent confident in their ability to oversee the expenditure of town funds, why did they seek office?
The funds can only be used for certain things, all tied in some way to tourism, although the ties can be fairly loose according to the state code. Moving the old town hall, or fixing up the depot or the log cabin at the park, might even be a permissible use of funds.
Regardless of the use the funds are eventually put to, lets look at this a little more closely. The town administrator of Iva makes the point that eighty five per cent of the people who eat in Iva, and pay this fee/tax are not residents. In other words, people who live outside town, often close enough to receive the benefits of town life without the additional taxes, are the ones paying this tax/fee. And the problem with that is what, exactly?
Now Councilman Otis Scott, who frankly, was way ahead of the curve on this issue, seems to think that this ordinance will pass rather easily. Im not so sure about that. There is a certain portion of the population, including elected representatives, that simply goes deaf at the mention of the word tax. They simply dont want to hear anything else about the issue.
Of course, these same folks never batted an eye when the town agreed to accept leachate from the landfill, raising all sorts of health and quality of life issues for many of the towns residents. But hey, the money is good, right?
You bet it is. And its just as good as a hospitality fee as it is as payment for accepting potentially dangerous materials into the Towns sewer system. And in all my research, I found no mention of anyone ever suffering nosebleeds or nausea from a hospitality tax. As for a bad smell, if you notice that, go to another restaurant.
To me, refusing such a benign source of revenue will be hard to explain. Well, you see Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, we didnt see any real problem with allowing water that had perked down through a hundred foot deep pile of garbage to be brought in by truck and dumped in our already overburdened wastewater treatment plant. But we just cant bear the thought of adding twenty cents to the cost of a ten dollar pizza. Gracious, we do have a responsibility to the taxpayers of this town you know.
Yeah, and the sad thing is that that kind of thinking still finds a certain level of acceptance here.
But there are other factors that should be considered. The draft ordinance to implement this fee/tax states that tourism is becoming a major industry in the city. If this is so, it is about time something was found to take up the slack of a shrinking textile industry.
Im not convinced that tourism will prove to be Williamstons salvation as the Upstates textile industry heyday comes to an increasingly swift end. There may or may not be enough history and natural attractions to draw large crowds, or even steady ones. But certainly, to an area that is learning the consequences of an all eggs in one basket economy, tourism can be one leg of a healthy economic base.
It may turn out that another leg of Williamstons foreseeable economic future will be as a bedroom community for larger and busier cities. If that is so, even more progressive leadership will be needed, to obtain funding and services while keeping property taxes as low as is reasonable. It should be noted that the hospitality tax, if it performs as well here as elsewhere, could replace from five to seven mills worth of revenue.
The fact is that something must be done to address the decreasing contribution of the textile industry in this area, and in Williamston specifically. Alternatives must be sought and found to insure that the Town has an economy to build on in the future. This fee is a step, albeit a small one, in recognizing that the old ways are no longer always the best ways.
Seems to me, it is a means worth pursuing.