Citizen group in troubled Swansea asks mayor to resign

Swansea Town Council argues during their meeting
Swansea Town Council argues during their meeting
Mayor Ray Spires says he has no intention of resigning
Mayor Ray Spires says he has no intention of resigning
The petition asking for Spires' resignation
The petition asking for Spires' resignation

By Jody Barr - email

SWANSEA, SC (WIS) - The town of Swansea has been breaking state law for the past 47 days. Town council was supposed to pass its budget by January 1, and council members are at each other's throats trying to come up with the cash.

The town needs to come up with $100,000 in cuts, and a petition is going around town asking the mayor to resign.

"Are you willing to cut your salary?" Swansea Councilman Ben Simons asked Mayor Ray Spires.

"Like I said at the last council meeting, I'll do what it takes to help this town," responded Spires, who never directly answered the question. "I love this town; I'm not going to do anything to hurt this town. But I've got the balls to stand up for what I believe in, which I think a lot of us at this table need to do, and not rely on others filling our heads with information."

Spires, the part-time mayor of 600 people makes $18,000 a year. Some townspeople like Sarah Forrester want him out.

"We, the undersigned, do respectfully request that Mayor Ray Spires resign his official duties to the town of Swansea effective immediately," Forrester read from a petition that has gotten a little more than 30 signatures in three days.
Forrester says she's confident she'll have the signatures to convince Spires to step down. Forrester, who is living on a fixed income, is worried about a proposal that could raise Swansea's water and sewer rates by as much as 40 percent.

She blames the increase on Spires, and told him so during Monday night's meeting. "I just think it's pretty well uncalled for, and it's all come about since you've come into office," Forrester told Spires.

State law requires Swansea to pass a balanced budget by January 1. After two meetings and 47 days, the town remains $100,000 over budget.
Town Administrator Lorraine Abell told council she cut office supplies, postage and legal fees. "It came up to a total of a little over $2,000," she said.

"You haven't cut any expenses out of it, except for the token stuff," responded a council member. "$2,000, that's not even a drop in the bucket."

One proposal would furlough town employees two days a month. Simons wants to take away the 10 cell phones the town pays for, one for every employee except Abell.

The council ended the meeting with an argument, but without a budget. "You are railroading anything and any suggestion that I make," accused Simons.

"Mr. Simons is got it all packages, he knows it all," responded Councilwoman Linda Butler. "You're a super guy and a super smart guy."

"You're damn right I'm a super guy," Simons shot back.

"Oh, you need to quit that," said Butler. "You need to quit that."

"I'm not being angry, but it's time out for -- how about you be quiet," added Councilman Woodrow Davis. "Honor thy father and thy mother, so be quiet."

Forrester sat with her petition through the meeting, waiting to hear how the town would get its finances in order. The mayor declined to talk with us about it.

Spires said citizens "have the right to do what they want" with respect to the petition, but said he has no intention of resigning. "Got to verify that it's legal first," he said.

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