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Dearing mayor urges patience on water-rate issue

DEARING --- Mayor Sean Kelley said Monday he opposes a resident's call for a Dearing contingent to attend the Thomson City Council meeting this week.

The meeting at 7 tonight will be held at the new city-county government center on Railroad Street.

Ray Silverstein has asked fellow Dearing residents to attend the meeting and ask the Thomson council to approve a pact that would lower water rates in Dearing. That measure failed on a 3-2 vote of the Thomson council on April 21. The rate formula would have raised rates in some parts of Thomson, but would have allowed greater reductions in Dearing and in some other parts of McDuffie County. The plan to standardize rates throughout the county already had cleared the county commissioners and the joint city-county water-sewer board.

About 80 city and county residents attended the April meeting, and opposed the measure.

Kelley told the Dearing Town Council that he has talked with Thomson officials and has been told the water rates issue will not be discussed this week. He said the Thomson council is not obligated to let the audience discuss an item that is not on the agenda.

Kelley said Dearing's interests would be better served by reserving comment until the proposal is back on the Thomson agenda.

"I just feel that's the respectful way to handle it," Kelley said.

"I have made umpteen phone calls," Kelley said. "I see three or four of those guys every week. I have not dropped the ball on it."

Council members Allen Axon, Judson Story and Bobby Aldred agreed. Councilman Michael McTier was absent.

Silverstein said he still intends to attend the Thomson meeting and hopes to make his case. "I don't feel it could hurt anything," Silverstein said.

He said he has asked at least 100 Dearing residents to attend the Thomson meeting. He also made his plea by calling a Thomson radio show Saturday morning.

The agreement on water rates had been described as a foundation for a broader agreement to standardize sewer rates throughout the county. Subsequent sewer rate reductions in Dearing would have been far greater than the accompanying rate increased in Thomson.

Water and sewer rates differ, based on the cost of the original projects providing that service.

In other business:

Kelley said the town cannot enact zoning regulations as quickly as he had hoped. He had said he wanted zoning in place within six months to a year. "More realistically, it will be around 18 months," he said.

Kelley said he had contacted the CSRA Regional Development Center, based in Augusta. That agency writes grants and offers its expertise, but has no authority over town policy.

Kelley said the agency wants Dearing to adopt a resolution supporting the zoning study. He said he hopes the council can have that resolution by the next meeting, which would be 7 p.m. Aug. 8.

The town would have to hold public hearings before the measure could be adopted.

Kelley said Dearing's law would not be lengthy. "We don't need some of the stuff that the larger cities have," he said.

He explained that many residents are concerned that some property uses are affecting property values.

The council heard about plans for the Sheriff's Night Out, from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2, in front of the former Dearing school.

"As always, free food, free everything," Kelley said. The sheriff's department will put on demonstrations. He said it will be like a neighborhood watch, an opportunity to meet with neighbors.

"We'll be serving Lowcountry boil again," said Kelley. He said he will help Bobby Toulson with the cooking.

Web posted on Thursday, July 14, 2011

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