Council Chairman David Ferguson began the discussion by jumping directly to the first recommendation of the plan’s Physical Recommendations, “Establish a Water/Sewer Coordinating Council to Spearhead Water/Sewer Master Plan.”
“This County has five water companies and two sewer companies,” Ferguson said. “We can do away the part of the plan having to do with establishing one water and sewer authority.”
Council member David Brown disagreed.
“This is a document that will last 20 to 30 years,” Brown said. “Someday we may be able to get all of the water and sewer companies together. Right now I don’t know that everyone can come together.”
“We will leave it in the plan and come back to it at an appropriate time in the future when the time is conducive to working together,” Ferguson said. “There is going to have to be a coming together of those entities. I don’t think we need to run down that trail right now.”
According to the County’s Strategic Plan, Fairfield County has, as does many rural counties and communities across the State, water and sewer utility service that is provided via multiple smaller system operators that do not offer coverage for all areas. The Plan recommends that Fairfield County establish a continuing means to coordinate water/sewer provisions across all areas of the County through various water/sewer providers that are not under direct County control. The plan states that, “The first step should be the completion of a comprehensive planning effort for water/sewer systems to help identify areas that would benefit from increased capacity, prioritize spending on new projects, and identify requisite funding plans. A key area for specific planning would be the I-77 Corridor. Other water/sewer projects identified as priorities in previous planning efforts should be accounted for in the planning documents.”
The plan goes on to say, “Entities Responsible for Implementation: Fairfield County Council. Fairfield County Council would initiate the establishment of the coordinating council by identifying and contacting representatives of utility providers for participation on the council. The coordinating council would develop the parameters for the Water/Sewer Master Plan and provide its recommendations to County Council for funding approval. The County would be best served by retaining an outside consultant to complete the Water/Sewer Master Plan. The establishment and make-up of the water/sewer coordinating council should be complete within four months of the adoption of the Economic Development Plan. Once the council is in place, the council would complete the Master Planning within 6 months.”
The Strategic Plan’s first Organizational Recommendation is for County Council to create a Fairfield County Economic Development Board, and the plan had examples of how two S.C. counties, Oconee and Orangeburg, organized their development boards.
David Ferguson said that one way to structure the board is for County Council to appoint members, since the development board would come under their jurisdiction. Council member Mary Lynn Kinley suggested that some Council members could be a part of the development board. Ferguson thought the Council should have one collective vote in the organization.
“Most of the development organizations throughout the state have people who can sit down with business owners and talk their language,” Brown said. “Oconee, Orangeburg, Chester and Lancaster counties have been very successful. We need to look at how those development boards are established.”
Council member Dwayne Perry said he would like to see what other counties are financially responsible for. The Plan estimates the start up and first year costs for the new organization will run between $276,400 and $347,000. Those costs include staff salaries, office rent, equipment and operational costs.
“Funding is a critical aspect,” Perry said. “Ultimately, the funding responsibility comes back to us.”
The Council continued to discuss how to create the Economic Development Development Board, and instructed County Administrator Phil Hinely to bring back detailed information about the process from other counties that have such a board in place.
The Council will have its next work session to discuss the next steps in late July.
A copy of the suggested Fairfield County Economic Development Strategic Plan can be found online at http://www.fairfieldsc.com/secondary.aspx?pageID=116.
In February 2010, Fairfield County retained Genesis Consulting Group to assist with the preparation of a county-wide strategic economic development plan to guide Fairfield County’s Economic Development efforts over the next five to 10 years. Genesis Consulting Group’s recommendations fell into the following categories: Organizational, Physical Infrastructure, Education & Workforce, Community Coordination /Cultural Relations and Compatible Industries/Business Development.