WINNSBORO — Around 130 people gathered for a town hall style meeting Monday night that was facilitated by Rep. MaryGail Douglas and Sen. Creighton Coleman.
The goal was for fence mending and productive civil conversation to provide tangible ways to move Fairfield County forward.
Douglas said the past few months have been painful for the county and left it in damage control mode. She sees the current predicament as similar to a car with a flat on the side of the road, meaning there are solutions to the issues facing the county and with planning that the county can emerge from these crises.
Participants made public comments and then split up into breakout sessions that centered around issues facing the county.
Issues included water and sewer at the new industrial park; Fairfield Memorial Hospital finance; local option sales tax; a recreation building for the Dawkins community; county council officials and repayment of health/tuition compensation; legal fees paid by the county for FOIA requests related to the Phil Hinely case.
Then the participants came together and addressed the group with the help of Coleman and Douglas in an effort to inform the public and correct any misinformation people may have heard prior to the town hall style meeting.
Coleman said that Fairfield needs to come together to ensure a prosperous future.
“County Council is broken,” Coleman said. “What will fix it? Y’all. Only people like you can fix it.”
Fairfield County Council, in Coleman’s opinion under its current leadership, is “a poster child for throwing money away” and he called on elected officials to work with him to create planning and vision for the county, particular with long term economic planning.
Coleman’s cousin, former Winnsboro Town Councilman Bill Haslett, raised the issue of county council compensation and the number of people employed by Fairfield County compared to other counties of comparable size.
While resident Eugene Holmes expressed concerns over what he perceives as nepotism and cronyism that take place in the county and he called for impeachment of county council. Coleman informed him, and all present, that there is no state law allowing a county to impeach or recall a county councilperson.
Council members can be suspended if an indictment is filed against them and they can be voted out of office at the ballot box.
This meeting gave the participants a voice that some individuals in the audience said they had not had at county council meetings.
Jenkinsville Mayor Greg Ginyard voiced concern about what he considers a vote within county council to have a recreation building built in the western side of Fairfield County. He asked where the building was and what plan was in place.
Douglas responded that she had inquired after the building too but she had not personally seen it. The building is believed to be store at the old county public works building, she said.
Douglas also said she is still pursuing the issue of whether or not county council members should repay funds some of them received in lieu of health insurance. She said she gave county council members one month to respond but had heard nothing yet.
Douglas said the meeting was intended to be productive and coalition building, not just a griping and complaining session.
“I think this was a healthy discussion and I am pleased with the turnout,” Douglas said. “This is a good beginning point for people.”
This was the first in a series of planned town hall style meetings aimed at bettering Fairfield County.