Council agrees on voting procedures

Kevin Boozer Staff Writer

November 1, 2013

WINNSBORO — After months of discussion Fairfield County Council voted unanimously Monday night that any recreation spending of the $500,000 bond money in a district must be approved by a majority vote of council.

Council members will research projects for their individual districts, present those projects to Interim County Administrator Milton Pope and county staff, have the items placed on a master list so county staff can estimate project costs and costs of ancillary or support services that must come from means other than the $500,000 per district, such as ongoing staffing expenses for a recreation facility.

Pope reminded council that the bond money can only be used for buildings and land, not for hiring people.

Councilwoman Carolyn Robinson said that in the past so many things came down to former administrator Phil Hinely and basically that he was given latitude to “go out and do anything.” She mentioned the over $700,000 budget for county recreation this year and the need to get and handle on spending and spell out where the money is going.

Councilman David Brown said council no longer had committees to work out details and that circumstance tasked a lot of duties upon county recreation director Lori Schaeffer and her staff. Brown was concerned about overhead expenses from expanded recreation projects and wanted to make sure a method was in place for council to keep that from happening.

Councilman Kamau Marcharia said he thought that was a stalling tactic that would keep his district from moving forward with the plan he said is ready to act upon.

Chairman David Ferguson agreed with Marcharia that there was no need to hold up one project and wait for all seven projects to be completed at the same time.

“Until we vote on a common way to spend the bond money, this money should not be spent,” Ferguson said.

Robinson questioned if the county bonding attorney needed to become involved to make sure the action was worded appropriately. County Attorney Jack James said he was not a bond attorney and had no specific verbiage to give council but in his opinion they could vote on the procedure as it was stated in the council meeting.

Pope said in his professional opinion, though not a legal opinion, that having all seven council members vote before spending the money on projects was consistent with state law.

In other business, council:

• Passed Ordinance 620 authorizing the county to sell property to the Fairfield Community Development Corporation for use as a commercial kitchen and extension of the Fairfield County Farmer’s Market efforts. The motion passes 5-1 with Marcharia voting against. Robinson, Perry, Brown, Ferguson and Kinley were in favor of it. The restoration project is one Pope said was deemed acceptable by the county.

• Unanimously passed Ordinance 622. Fairfield County Economic Development Director Tiffany Harrison said Lang Mekra reduced its sales price by more money than the tax credit. The credit is part of a county partnership to help Lang Mekra attract an international company that would provide 25 jobs over five years and involve $1.5 million in equipment purchases.

• Unanimously passed second reading passed unanimously on efforts for a joint industrial park to be created on I-77 in partnership with Richland County.

• Richie Monteith from Jackson Creek was appointed to the Midlands Work Force Development Board. Council ratified Ferguson’s reappointment to the Central Midlands Development Group.

• Ferguson addressed flow bill legislation. He mentioned years ago a company wanted to put a construction and debris landfill in Fairfield County. He said he had been to Columbia numerous times to address members of the House and Senate about the county’s position.

“This is one of the most important piece of legislation in years and will have an impact on the county,” he said. “We don’t want to give up the power of home rule. No council in South Carolina solicited the right to be in charge of solid waste. That responsibility was mandated by the state.”

Ferguson said over 2/3 of S.C. Counties had done resolutions opposing the legislation and that 76 percent of people polled by the S.C. Association of Counties did not want that legislation in South Carolina.

“This is about health and devaluing of property more than home rule,” Perry said. “It is a serious issue when you lose that control.”

David Brown, a member of the SCAC Board, agreed the bill needs to be amended. Robinson voted against the resolution but Kinely, Ferguson, Perry, Brown and Marcharia were in favor of it.

• During county council time Ferguson took issue with the tactics of some of the county council critics.

“I’ve tried to say middle of the road with this (controversy),” Ferguson said, “but it came to my attention about six weeks ago that a person made an FOI request from my son’s (medical records who has had acute kidney stones since age 11). For some reason that person (a rather prominent one within the Saving Fairfield Group) took it upon themselves to know what kind of bill my child had at the hospital. He is now 40 years old and has had hundreds of kidney stones…. My son did not run for county council. His dad did. If you (have a problem) with me and want to deal with me, that’s fine but leave my children and wife alone.”

• Ferguson announced a work session for Oct. 30 where council would discuss changing bylaws after confusion occurred about public comment time allotted the public. A full report on that meeting will be in Tuesday’s Herald Independent.