Ridgeway Casts its Lot with Water Group

The Town of Ridgeway became the third official charter member of the proposed Fairfield County regional water authority Thursday night, as their town council voted unanimously to pony up the $5,000 fee to sit on the organizational committee. The vote came after an executive session during council’s regularly scheduled meeting at Town Hall. Last week, following a work session on the water authority hosted by County Council, Ridgeway Mayor Charlene Herring said the town would have to dig into its savings account to cover the entry fee.

Ridgeway joins the towns of Blythewood and Winnsboro on the list of those who have committed, monetarily, to joining the water authority’s charter committee. With $5,000 paid in by each entity, John Fantry said the water authority has met its $15,000 minimum capital requirement. Fantry is special counsel to the Town of Winnsboro on utility matters.

“Winnsboro is delighted,” Fantry said. “We have reached our threshold and now, this body, when it comes together, will have the resources to get the work done. We have reached our minimum, although we still have some out on the edges.”

Those still ‘out on the edges’ are Mid-County Water and Fairfield County. County Councilman Dwayne Perry, who represents the Ridgeway community in District 1, was at Thursday’s meeting and told town council that the County has been focused almost entirely on the water issue.

“I still think there’s a lot of information that I need to have, but I do think that we need to continue to move forward, because really it’s going to drive economic development – or not, if we don’t get water,” Perry said. “It’s all about water.

“We have until the 30th of the month to make that $5,000 donation,” Perry said. “I’m sure the County will probably make it just to stay involved with this water authority process. That’s just my feeling. We’ll vote on that.”

Mid-County, while verbally committed to being at the table, has not submitted its $5,000 contribution to the water authority, according to Herb Rentz, who heads the water company. One hurdle Mid-County will have to overcome is a transition from their current status as a 501(c)(4), not-for-profit, organization to a special purpose district. Doing so would make them a political subdivision, something attorney Margaret Pope said at the Sept. 5 county work session would be necessary for Mid-County to join a water authority.

“That has been done by a number of entities like us,” Rentz said of the conversion. “I have been calling a lot of those entities and I haven’t received any negative comments. They experienced no significant rate increases.”

Rentz said Mid-County plans on sending their money in by the Sept. 30 deadline. Fairfield County Administrator Phil Hinely said County Council planned to have the item on the Sept. 24 agenda.

Fantry said that even though the water authority has met its minimum requirements to move to the next stage of organization, there was still a place at the table for late-comers.

“The door is open,” Fantry said. “But at some point, we’re going to start doing some work.”