Wholesalers, Others Face Deadline for Proposed Water Authority

It has been more than a month since the Mayor of Winnsboro laid down the law for wholesale customers of Winnsboro water, and so far only two distributors of that water have indicated an interest in partnering in a joint water authority. With a Sept. 30 deadline looming, other entities could be left out in the cold in terms of future water sales.

According to documents included with the Town Manager’s report for the Aug. 7 meeting of Winnsboro Town Council, the Town had received positive responses from the Town of Ridgeway and Mid-County Water to joining the Town of Winnsboro in the Regional Water Supply Authority for Fairfield County. No response had been received from the Jenkinsville Water Company or Fairfield County. The Town had also received no response from the Mitford Water Company or the Town of Blythewood.

Under the proposed plan, members will be expected to contribute $5,000 to a Charter Committee bank account to raise capital for incorporating costs. If at least $15,000 hasn’t been raised by the Sept. 30 deadline, the entire project goes up in smoke.

“If we haven’t raised that money by the September deadline, then the Town will probably have to look at phasing distributors off the system,” said John Fantry, special counsel to the Town of Winnsboro. “It is a ‘pay to play’ system. If Winnsboro is the only one putting up any money to do this, if other people aren’t committed, then we’re going to have to take care of ourselves, and that means cutting people off of wholesale water.”

Although the checks have not been written just yet, with Mid-County and Ridgeway willing to join with Winnsboro, it appears that the money to move forward will be there. But that doesn’t necessarily mean wholesale water will continue to flow to entities choosing not to participate.

“They risk losing water from the Authority,” Fantry said, “whether the Authority has excess to sell or not.”

If the Authority were formed today, Winnsboro, Mid-County and Ridgeway, with the assistance of Santee Cooper and the Central Midlands Council of Governments, would establish a Charter Committee, made up of two voting members from each participating entity. The Authority would design the system infrastructure required to meet the needs of each of its members and issue bonds to help pay for that infrastructure. The Charter Committee would then sell retail water to the individual members.

Currently, the Jenkinsville Water Company (JWC) purchases approximately 50 percent of its water from Mid-County, which in turn buys water from Winnsboro; but Gregrey Ginyard, president of the JWC Board of Trustees, said his company is not interested in joining the authority.

“At this time, we don’t feel like that would be beneficial for us,” Ginyard said, and added he was not overly concerned about the possibility of being cut off from Winnsboro water.

“We’re working on other water sources,” Ginyard said. “We’re looking at putting in more wells and we’re applying for grants for a treatment plant so we can pull water out of the river. At this point in time, we can’t see turning the Jenkinsville Water Company over to someone else.”

The Mitford Water Company said they would like to have joined in the project, but were locked into a contract with Chester County for the next 30 years or more. Mitford Water serves approximately 900 customers in Fairfield County.

John Perry, Town Administrator for the Town of Blythewood, said he has not yet received any direction from Town Council on which way Blythewood will go on the water authority.

Fairfield County, which has for months been waiting on a water tap from the Town of Winnsboro to supply water to a new industrial park, has also not committed to the proposed water authority. A special called meeting was to be held Wednesday night for Council to discuss the matter.

“What we’ve got to figure out is where we fit in,” David Ferguson, Chairman of Fairfield County Council, said. “What is our niche? Do we need to be involved or not?”