Council Nixes Move to Larger Venue

County Council faced another full house Monday night.

FAIRFIELD – Although County Council easily voted Monday night to move an upcoming special meeting on the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) funds to Fairfield Central High School, two motions to relocate regular meetings to a larger venue touched off a rigorous debate, eliciting unhappy grumbles from the overflow audience before being swept away in defeat.

Councilman David Brown (District 7), who placed the first motion on the floor to move Council’s regular meetings to a larger venue for a three-month period, said he has been hearing from voters in his district who want better access to County business.

“We’ve got a group here that’s going to follow us wherever we go,” Brown said, indicating the capacity crowd. “I think the best thing to do is to put us in a large enough venue where everybody can have a seat. We’ve got people in the other room down there (a conference room down the hall, which was also filled). We’ve got people standing in the hall. It’s a fire hazard. If we can go to one of the schools where there’s more room, more air space, actually the Council and the people in the audience shouldn’t feel quite as heated.”

While Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) said he had also heard from voters in his district on the matter, he had bad memories of previous efforts by Council to bring the meetings to the public.

“One of the members in my district did write me and ask me to vote yes for moving (the meetings), but that member also told me I needed to resign, so if we move the meetings I don’t know what we’d be talking about,” Marcharia said. “Eight or nine years ago we used to move Council around to fire stations and to McCrorey-Liston school and other places, and we had to call the police. We went to those meetings and folks would come there totally out of control. We had to call that off. Unless you want to wear a football helmet, I am leery about moving.”

Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) said she was opposed to the idea, although her reasoning drew grumbles from the onlookers in attendance Monday night.

“This is our headquarters,” Kinley said. “The Town Hall is where the Town of Winnsboro meets. The School Board meets where they meet. The Senate meets where they meet. They don’t change the venue at the Senate just to accommodate the public when they want to come. It’s first come, first served. But the main reason is Miss Brown (Shryll Brown, Clerk to Council) has records in her office that we depend on greatly for things to be voted on and have correct information.”

Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) said moving a meeting as highly anticipated as the upcoming LOST update was one thing, but to move meetings permanently was another.

“To take Council away from chambers for three months, that’s a long time,” Ferguson said. “This is the County seat for meetings. That’s publicly known. Do we need to try one or two and see how that plays out? That might not be a bad idea. But I don’t think we need to spend a quarter of the year someplace else. I don’t think that’s feasible.”

The motion failed, 4-2, with Brown and Councilwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) its only supporters.

Brown then followed with a second motion, to move meetings on a trial basis for no longer than three months.

“We can do it one month, if it doesn’t work, or we can give it two months or three months, but let’s give it a try,” Brown said. “If the larger venue is too large, or if this Council starts doing a great job and we lose about half these people out here, we can come back here.”

That motion, too, failed to garner enough support to carry, dying in a 3-3 deadlock. Brown, Robinson and Marcharia voted in favor, with Ferguson, Perry and Kinley voting against. Perry then put forward the motion to move meetings, as needed, to a larger venue, causing some in the audience to cry out that it was needed now. That motion carried, 3-2, with Brown and Robinson voting against.

“I hate to disenfranchise any constituent from any of the meetings we have,” Brown said.