WINNSBORO — Jenkinsville and Dawkins residents pledged a week ago to turn out in force for the Monday meeting of Fairfield County Council to make their voices heard with regard to rezoning of property for a medical clinic on S.C. 215.
However, during the public comment period, no one showed. After that, it was business as usual for county council.
Third and final reading passed unanimously for each of the four parcels up for rezoning. Prior to voting on the property in question in Jenkinsville, Councilman Kamau Marcharia spoke about communication and the dissension that emerged around the project.
Marcharia said that until recently his efforts toward placing a medical clinic in the area had centered around land that had been a project with the Richland Health Center. He said he worked with council to buy the land but a lien on the property made it not feasible.
Marcharia said once he learned of Dr. Stuart Hamilton’s efforts, he learned that the government grant funded projects could only be placed on purchased property, not leased property, which eliminated the 8.12 acre proposal the Dawkins community was fighting for at that time.
“This was a failure of communication by the council involving letting the doctor and other community members know there was land available,” Marcharia said. “I was not privy to some of the things that happened therefore I was not able to inform the community or go out and search for land.”
Marcharia mentioned that he found three people willing to sell land and even one person who offered to donate three acres had they only been made aware of the possibility sooner.
That fact was a moot point after the land was rezoned. However, the county ordinance did not sell any land to Hamilton. All it did was change the zoning classification on private property that is being sought in a nonprofit business deal that is independent of Fairfield County.
Therefore, it is possible Hamilton could buy a different property, but that notion was outside the scope of the county council meeting or vote.
Council Chairman David Ferguson responded to Marcharia’s allegations of being kept out of the loop due to poor communication.
“The way this thing came about was the previous health care providers had purchased just shy of five acres on Highway 215,” he said. “Council voted in open session to go after that piece of property…. We did a diligent effort in trying to do it and everything was above board.”
“Kelvin Washington invited Ferguson, Hinely, Jack James and Dr. Hamilton to a meeting at the Council of Government Building. They had a very frank discussion but the county was not aware at the time the organization was going into bankruptcy,” Ferguson said.
According to Ferguson, the county did not go hunt property at that time for the project. The next month, he said that Hamilton called him requesting the steps to have property rezoned.
“I don’t think any council member can sit up here and say that there was anything they were unaware of because we have to sit up here and vote on this thing,” Ferguson said.
In other business:
• Board commission appointments passed unanimously with Brian Bonds filling the at-large seat on Behavioral Health Services. Steve Vickers also was approved for the Behavioral Health board for District 7.
• Pam Smith was approved unanimously as the District 3 representative for the Council on Aging.
• Davis Anderson introduced new county department heads Jennifer Glover-Hawkins, head of county transit; Teresa Lawson, director of the Fairfield County Detention Center; and Randy Roberts, the new county tax assessor.
• Hinely reminded council of an upcoming meeting with landlords and property owners about zoning code enforcement ordinances set for March 12. He said a meeting will be held for the same purpose with Ridgeway Town Council on March 14. Since the area being assessed is just out of the town of Ridgeway, Hinely wanted county officials to keep Ridgeway in the loop as a courtesy.
• On March 2 Ferguson, Hinely and Council Vice Chairman Dwayne Perry are going to Washington, D.C., to visit with representatives and request for more county assistance. Ferguson particularly wants to get more help for the Fairfield Memorial Hospital, noting that Gov. Nikki Haley’s refusal to accept federal funding is hurting FMH and 16 other small, rural hospitals. He estimated the lost revenue for FMH to be around $2 million due to the policies. They also will ask for assistance for the county airport, as well as other areas that are hoped to improve the quality of life and pump energy into the county economic engine.
• Council met in executive session and after the session Perry made a motion that passed unanimously for council to work to improve the points system the County Transportation Commission uses to determine road quality. Improving the points system should help roads to get serviced more quickly.