Council Lukewarm on Water Authority Governance

RIDGEWAY – In preparation for the September meeting of the steering committee for the proposed Fairfield County joint water authority, Town Council tentatively put forward the recommendation for a limited joint system style of governance for the venture. Councilman Doug Porter, who sits with Mayor Charlene Herring on the steering committee, put the recommendation forward during Council’s Aug. 8 meeting.

The limited joint system model would mean that Winnsboro would retain ownership of the water supply, as well as the treatment plant and water lines. Winnsboro would also invest in capacity improvements. The joint system as a group would invest in the expansion of the distribution system for economic development purposes, buy capacity from the water plant, build transmission lines and serve retail customers where individual members do not. Individual members may also provide the joint system with funding for capacity purchases and expansion projects.

But Councilman Donald Prioleau was less than enthusiastic about the model, and said he would like to see more numbers before giving a definite OK.

“I would like to see something that spells out what percentage of the water (authority) that Ridgeway would hold,” Prioleau said. “What kind of dollar sign could it bring us compared to what we’re already making. If we’re not careful, we may give away our main source of income. I need to see some numbers.”

Councilwoman Belva Bush also said she was still unsure about which way to go with the water authority. Prioleau suggested bringing in an outside advisor to provide guidance to Council once the steering committee decides on a form of governance. Herring, meanwhile, said Ridgeway had to be able to bring some recommendation to the next committee meeting. Council decided to make their recommendation for the joint limited system contingent upon an outside review.

Ordinance Reviews

Council also spent time poring over Town ordinances in an effort to bring the laws up to date. Herring suggested reviewing state law to determine the requirements for operating a golf cart on the roadways and suggested that a state driver’s license might be in order to do so in the Town limits in the future. Council also added horses and goats to the list of prohibited farm animals inside the Town limits and adjusted the fines for doing so from the previous not less than $1 and not more than $10 to not less than $100 and not more than $500. Fines for disorderly acts and lewd behavior were also bumped up to not less than $500.

It will still be unlawful to kill, injure or destroy a wild squirrel inside the Town limits, and the fines for doing so will go from the $1-$10 range to $100-$300.

Reviewing an ordinance for water service, Porter said language in the existing ordinance that said residents and businesses inside and outside the Town limits have “the privilege of applying for water service,” should be changed to give those inside the Town limits the “right to water service.” But Town Clerk Vivian Case pointed out that some places inside the Town cannot be provided service because of the size of the water line.

“That’s right,” Porter said, “and that’s the point of upgrading some of our water mains.”

Porter said changing the ordinance would force the Town’s hand in making long-needed upgrades. Herring suggested making the “right to water service” contingent upon availability. Council took no action on Porter’s suggestion, and all changes to ordinances will still have to go through the reading and public hearing process before becoming official.