County OK’s Zoning Officers

With two of its members in attendance at the Town of Winnsboro’s water authority meeting and one member out for personal reasons, a bare quorum of Fairfield County Council gave the final OK July 9 to administration to hire two new code enforcement officers as well as create an assistant director of planning and zoning position. The move is designed to help the County enforce new and stricter zoning laws put in place by Council earlier this year.

The new code enforcement officers will have to complete training with the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy in order to be certified as Class 3 officers (with the ability to issue citations) within a reasonable amount of time after hire, Council Chairman David Ferguson said. The assistant director of planning and zoning will essentially be an understudy of the director, Hinely said at Council’s June 25 meeting, and will move into the director’s spot when that position comes open in the next two years.  At that time, the assistant director position will be discontinued.

Hinely also said it was his plan to divide the department into two sections – building inspection, and planning and zoning/code enforcement – as well as initiate community outreach programs in order to notify property owners of County’s intent to enforce the more rigid codes.

“We’ll have some community awareness meetings to let people know what’s going on before we start mailing out notices,” Hinely said July 9.

Fergus said he had already received some negative feedback from the community regarding the County’s new codes, but said the tighter codes were necessary if Fairfield County is going to move into the future.

“First of all, we didn’t have a plan to help people realize just how negative these housing situations have gotten,” Ferguson said. “And since we never brought it to anybody’s attention, everyone just accepted that that’s what our expectations are. Well, those are not what our expectations are. Unless we move forward, Fairfield County is never going to be the place we all dream it can be.”

Ferguson later addressed the absence of Council members David Brown and Carolyn Robinson, both of whom attended the Town of Winnsboro’s meeting to consider the viability of creating a county water authority instead of the County Council meeting.

“We have a couple of Council members who chose to go to the water meeting the Town of Winnsboro chose to have tonight,” Ferguson said. “Their hope is to get all five purveyors of water on board to form a water authority.”

Councilman Dwayne Perry said he would have liked to have attended the Winnsboro meeting, but felt the regularly scheduled County Council meeting took precedence.

“If there’s another meeting, I hope to have the opportunity to go,” Perry said.

Council member Mary Lynn Kinley said the Town of Winnsboro was aware of the conflict in County Council’s schedule and knew the majority of Council members could not attend a July 9 meeting.

“We did have an opportunity to tell them when we could and could not meet,” Kinley said. “The Town sent us a letter and I think all of us stated that on the second and fourth Mondays we could not be there. But they chose tonight.”

Ferguson said County Council sets its meeting schedule at the beginning of the year, but that his impression was that most of the people who were invited to the Winnsboro meeting could only attend that night.

“We vote on our meeting schedule the first meeting in January,” Ferguson said, “and we don’t deviate from that unless an emergency comes up. We all would like to have been there (at the Winnsboro meeting), but Council’s agenda is Council’s agenda. I didn’t postpone this meeting or have an early meeting because this is the appointed Council time on this appointed night and the four of us are here to do business.”