Politics Paves Way for Water Deal

WINNSBORO – After months of stalemate and stagnation, the Town of Winnsboro and the City of Columbia at last have a new water deal. The agreement, signed by Columbia June 4 – the same night Winnsboro Town Council voted to authorize Mayor Roger Gaddy to sign – ups Winnsboro’s take from Columbia from 400,000 gallons a day to up to 1 million gallons a day, and looks to be the final piece in the infrastructure puzzle to Fairfield County’s new industrial parks.

“Now we’ve got to sit down with everyone and figure out how to go from 400,000 gallons a day to 1 million gallons a day,” Fairfield County Council Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) said last week. “We’re going to get that park where it needs to be.”

Ferguson said the County was footing the bill to bring the water into the Highway 34 water tank and some additional engineering may be necessary to go from 400,000 to 1 million gallons. He also said that now that the water is on its way, the future for the park looks good.

“I would be really surprised if by the end of the year we didn’t have someone in there,” Ferguson said. “We’ve got a pretty good prospect for the new park.”

During Town Council’s June 4 meeting, when the tentative water deal was announced, Gaddy said the sticking points that had essentially killed previous negotiations – clauses that would have allowed Columbia to increase rates or decrease flow without notice, and that would have freed Columbia from water quality assurances or any maintenance responsibilities on their end of the line – had been removed from the current proposal. He also indicated that State Sen. Creighton Coleman (D-17) had played a significant role in bringing Columbia back to the table with a contract Winnsboro could sign.

Coleman said last week that he had indeed played a little politics in order to bring water to the industrial parks. About three weeks ago, Coleman said, he was approached by a lobbyist for the City of Columbia who asked him if he would consider amending a bill he had introduced, the S.C. Abandoned Buildings Revitalization Act (S.0234, introduced by Coleman, Kevin L. Johnson [D-36] and Thomas McElveey [D-35]), so that the bill would also encompass the Palmetto Compress Building, recently purchased by the City of Columbia.

“I told him it wasn’t going to happen unless Columbia signed a water deal with Winnsboro,” Coleman said. “Within a week, it was done.”

The House version of the bill (H.3093), which gives developers a 25 percent tax credit to revitalize buildings across the state that have been sitting idle and not generating income for at least five years, ultimately passed both chambers and was signed by Gov. Nikki Haley June 10.

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