Bond Passes Second Reading

FAIRFIELD – Although the parking lot was full and Council chambers were standing room only, when it came time for the public to speak, either for or against, the County’s latest $24.06 million economic development bonds Monday night, all was silent. Only one individual signed up to speak during the public hearing on the bonds, but when his name was called, he declined, paving the way for a 6-1 vote by Council to approve second reading of Ordinance 614.

Carolyn Robison (District 2), who had voted for the ordinance during its first reading on March 25, was the lone dissenting vote Monday night.

“We’re telling people there’s no additional taxes, but what we’re not telling them is that we’re paying off the present bond issue and this is not lowering their taxes at all,” Robinson said. “The red marks look nice, but this is the bottom line and the truth to what’s really going on.”

The bonds are part of the County’s 10-year economic development plan, and approximately half of the funds generated will go toward the enhancement of the County’s two industrial parks and water and sewer infrastructure along the I-77 corridor. A portion of the funds – $3.5 million – will go toward the development of recreational parks, while another $3.59 million will go toward upgrades to the County Courthouse and the Administration Building and Sheriff’s Office. Some of the funds will also be designated for upgrades of fire stations in each district.

Prior to the public hearing, Council heard from Mike Briggs, president and CEO of the Central S.C. Alliance, a regional economic development firm based in Columbia. Briggs said the County was on the right track, positioning itself for future economic investment. After years of being outsourced, manufacturing is returning to the United States, Briggs said, and companies are looking for move-in ready sites.

“To be successful in this business, you’ve got to prepare for folks who want to come and look,” Briggs said, noting the 40 projects his firm has helped lead into the Midlands of South Carolina. “Those 40 projects aren’t here because we have raw land that can be turned into something in the next three or four years. That’s not the way things work. Your willingness and ability to create property, your willingness and ability to put infrastructure in the ground, to be forward thinking, has positioned this county very well in this globally competitive search for jobs and investment.”

Council also held a public hearing on an application for a Community Development Block Grant to install sewer lines to the Middle Six community. The project would provide sewer lines to approximately 72 homes on Old Camden Road and Flora Circle and would require $50,000 in matching funds from the County. Steven Gaither, the County’s Grants Coordinator, said that in order to qualify for the federal funds, at least 80 percent of residents in the community must agree to tap onto the lines, and of those, at least 51 percent must be defined as LMI, or low to moderate income. Gaither said a request has been submitted to the Town of Winnsboro, who would provide the services once the lines were installed. If Winnsboro accepts, then the project goes to the U.S. Department of Commerce for approval. Within 12 months of final approval, the system would be in place, according to Kevin Strickland, an engineer with W.K. Dickson.

The project is not necessarily a new idea, Council Chairman David Ferguson said, pointing out that fellow Councilman David Brown (District 7) has been working to make it a reality for at least 10 years. But, Ferguson said, residents in Middle Six have had reliable septic tank systems in place in the past, making them reluctant to sign on to a municipal system.

“As time has gone on and these sewer systems have failed,” Ferguson said, “now folks are coming around to want to do this.”

Council will hold its first work session for the 2013-2014 budget April 11 at 6 p.m. and will hold a special called meeting April 15 at 6 p.m. for final reading of the bond ordinance.