Can Fairfield County’s Leadership Work Together?

WINNSBORO – The tone was set early at Monday night’s intergovernmental meeting, where representatives from the School District, County Council, the State Legislature and the towns of Winnsboro and Ridgeway* broke bread at the District Office, and the message was clear: Work together, or nothing will work at all.

It was the theme of the opening statement by the group’s newest member, District 41 Representative MaryGail Douglas, elected to the State House last November and now three months into her first term. In order for Fairfield County to move forward, she said, the county’s major political players had to shuck their reputation for contentiousness and find some common ground.

“Fairfield County in known in Columbia for a lack of collaboration,” Douglas said. “I’m not real proud of that. It’s not going to get us anywhere. There are people who are standing at the steps, waiting, because they know what a diamond we have in this county. It is up to us, individually and collectively, to make things right. To make relationships right among our people. To make organizations work together among our people. I just plead with everybody here to get past that, so that we can see some really good things come down the pike.”

Dwayne Perry, Vice Chairman of County Council, agreed.

“It all goes back to communication,” Perry said. “We had one of our best discussions with the Town of Winnsboro (April 17). The Town of Winnsboro is really trying to work with us to get water to that industrial park. That’s what teamwork is all about. The County can sit over here and do our thing, the School Board can do your thing, but if we don’t start working together as a team it’s going to be very difficult to move this county forward.”

David Ferguson, Chairman of Fairfield County Council, said collaborative efforts between the County and the Town of Winnsboro have been thus far unsuccessful in securing a deal with the City of Columbia to bring water to the County’s new industrial parks.

“We’ve kind of hit a roadblock on that, right now,” Ferguson said. “Between their (the Town of Winnsboro’s) efforts and our efforts, we’re trying to get around that so we can get the parks where they should be.”

Ferguson said several companies have looked at the new spec building at the park, and one major company has looked at property in the park.

“We’ve got to get some water and sewer down there,” he said. “We’re still in negotiations with Columbia on water that will take us four or five years until we can get the overall problem taken care of. That’s a moving target, but it’s one the County is going to have to deal with in order to put people to work in this county. We all have to work together to make that happen. Like MaryGail said, it’s not a one-man show by any means.”

Ferguson also warned the gathering that a bill to amend the state’s solid waste management plan, known as the “Business Freedom to Choose Act,” (S.203) would soon be coming up for a vote in the State Senate. Douglas, he said, had voted against the House version (H.3290), and encouraged everyone to contact District 17 Senator Creighton Coleman to push him for a similar vote. This bill, Ferguson said, would take away a county’s ability to determine where landfills are located and what kind of waste landfills can accept. Perry added that the bill would take home rule away from the County.

A reading of the current version of the bill, however (available at www.scstatehouse.gov), contains no such language. The bill does, on the other hand, prohibit counties from mandating which landfills private companies choose to dispose of waste.

The next intergovernmental meeting will be hosted by the County on June 17.

*Editor’s Note: The Town of Jenkinsville, although invited, was not represented at Monday night’s meeting.

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