WINNSBORO — Fairfield County Administrator Phil Hinely hopes that recent visit from the Army Corps of Engineers and the subsequent water study for Fairfield County will get momentum going on water projects so that water soon begins flowing at the county’s Fairfield Commerce Center.
As of last week, Hinely said there has been no change in a hold up on the work at the new industrial park.
Since the spring, town council and county council have had issues with providing the paperwork required to proceed with getting the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control permits for the expansion of the Fairfield Commerce Center and the Walter Brown II Industrial Park.
At issue is a crucial “willingness to serve letter” that county council requested of the Town of Winnsboro so that DHEC paperwork could be completed.
The request for a willingness to serve letter was made in February, and according to letters between Hinely and Winnsboro Mayor Roger Gaddy, eight months later that letter had not been produced by the town.
The issue, however, according to Gaddy, was a matter of semantics and of business practice.
Upon researching the DHEC website, Gaddy learned the letter required by DHEC actually was a “willingness and ability to serve” letter.
In an Aug. 27 letter to Hinely summing up town council’s thoughts on the matter Gaddy stated that, “The town has the willingness to serve but is still evaluating its ability to serve and until the town concludes that is has the ability to serve, it would be imprudent to sign documents that would obligate the town to provide both a supply and a capacity that may be currently unavailable.”
Gaddy further cited limited resources within the town’s water, gas and sewer crew as the reason the 200 feet of water main had not yet been installed within the Walter Brown II Industrial Park. He said that any free time those workers had could be devoted to the construction or installation of new infrastructure but as of that time there had been little time the workers could spare to dedicate to expansion.
Gaddy then left it to the Hinely’s discretion to consider hiring a contractor to perform the pipe installation.
He also requested a thorough evaluation of pump stations from Walter Brown II all the way to the sewer plant so the town could tell the gallons per minute rate is could guarantee potential industry.
Hinely and the county contacted Wood by letter in April, whereby Hinely assured him then that from April it would be at least six months before the county needed water from the system. In that letter a request was made to install and have water lines tested, however.
“The county needs to install and have the lines tested now so that these industrial parks can be fully served with infrastructure and therefore position ourselves to become competitive locally, nationally and globally,” according to Hinely.
Hinely continued that once a company chose to come to the industrial site that the county would then submit an official request for the amount of water needed at the site.
Severe drought and the subsequent water restrictions are a major player in this issue.
In a February 21 letter from Town attorney John Fantry, Garrett Wine of Alliance Consulting Engineers was informed that the Town of Winnsboro denied the request for water and sewer services at that time, citing drought restrictions.
At the time the town reservoir had fallen below 50 percent full and according to a 2003 ordinance, when the water reached such a low level no new water taps or pipe extensions will be undertaken by the Town of Winnsboro.
Fantry hoped that supplemental water from Columbia, i.e. Blythewood, would provide a solution to the issue.
However, months later, the delay remains.
Despite the difficulties that have arisen, the town and county officials assure constituents that they remain committed to working together to further industrial development and job creation in Winnsboro and in Fairfield County.
In his Aug. 21 letter, in fact, Gaddy commended county council for its efforts to attract industry to the area.
Hinely also referenced the town as a helpful partner in the past and it is hoped that a solution can be found to this problem so that Fairfield County can be poised to move forward with its proposed 75,000-square-foot speculative building as well as the Fairfield Commerce Center and the Walter Brown II Industrial Park.
“We appreciate that the town has always been willing to partner with the County to ensure that the necessary infrastructure is in place to attract industry and create job opportunities for our citizens,” Hinely said.