Future of Landmark in Doubt

Council considers fate of former offices

FAIRFIELD – Although 117 E. Washington St. was on its last legs long before the County Coroner, the Fire Marshall and Voter Registration moved out in July of 2011, suggestions of its imminent demise at Monday night’s County Council meeting stirred an emotional, heartfelt reaction from one Fairfield County resident – Terry Vickers, President of the Chamber of Commerce.

Vickers said the Chamber has only now gotten the OK for a $40,000 grant to implement a farmer’s market in downtown Winnsboro, and that she envisions the former Voter Registration building as part of the finished product.

“I know the Council has been very lenient with that building,” Vickers said. “I know that building is not in good shape. But we still have dreams of using that building, because it is an historic building.”

Phil Hinely, County Administrator, said it was a miracle that the building was still standing at all.

“Several years ago, we abandoned the Voter Registration building. It had fire code violations, electrical code violations, public code violations. It had about every kind of code violation you could think of,” Hinely said. “It’s a safety hazard, it’s a fire hazard. I’m really kind of surprised it made it through the winter. We didn’t have any snow, but a heavy snow could have crashed that roof down.”

Hinely recommended that the County move forward with razing the structure and replacing it with a building to be used for housing records from the County Courthouse, as well as evidence from past criminal cases, all of which he said the County was required by law to maintain.

Vickers asked Council to consider an historic façade for any new building, so that it might fit in with the surrounding aesthetic of Winnsboro’s downtown historic hub.

“I hope we can work together so we can still have a piece of history,” Vickers said.

Chairman David Ferguson said preserving the building would not be cost effective for the County, essentially sounding the death knell for 117 E. Washington.

“I think the best thing to do is to tear that building down and try to build something that would be accommodating for folks to use (as part of the farmer’s market),” Ferguson said. “It would cost us more to bring that building up to any kind of standard than it would for us to build a new building on that site.”

Council took no action on the fate of the building, but Ferguson said it was something that would require a vote in the not too distant future.