County Taps COG for Long-Term Plan

WINNSBORO – County Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night to authorize the County Administrator to craft a deal to allow the Central Midlands Council of Governments (COG) to take the point on the County’s long-term strategic planning process.

The motion was put on the floor by Councilman David Brown (District 7), who after the meeting said the COG-led plan would help prepare the County for the massive influx of cash expected to start rolling in in the next five years from the two new nuclear reactors under construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville.

“And if anyone else wants to get involved (in the planning process), this would be a way for them to do so,” Brown said.

In his motion, Brown said the COG was created specifically to assist counties like Fairfield, and that the COG has a staff approximately 40 professional planners.

“They plan everything from highways to running the railroad tracks from Charlotte to Columbia,” Brown said.

Brown’s motion included incorporating existing Fairfield County plans, including the strategic plan that was completed in 2010, as well as the County’s existing economic data from Fairfield’s partnership in the I-77 Alliance. The proposal will also allow the COG to contract out for additional resources as necessary. Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6) provided Brown with a second.

“Planning is something that’s very complicated and very long-term and you’ve got to know what you’re doing,” Brown said. “And we don’t need to hire a department of long-term planners. We’ve already got one with the COG.”

Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) said an additional benefit from letting the COG lead the way is that it prevents potentially good ideas from getting crushed by egos.

“It takes personalities out of it,” Ferguson said. “It’s an independent set of eyes.”

The cost of the partnership was not determined with Council’s vote. Ferguson said later that the cost would not be available until after the contract was prepared. The proposed plan would likely project 20 years into the future, Ferguson said.

Ridgeway Interchange

Brown reported to Council that options for truck traffic, as well as for widening Peach Road and a proposed four-way interchange at the south end of Ridgeway, were on hold pending traffic studies. Brown said the COG’s Rural Transportation Committee, on which he sits, met last week to discuss Ridgeway traffic issues. A recent proposal to install a four-way stop near Highway 21 and the Highway 21 Connector has also been put on hold after the project met with strong local opposition.

“The DOT (Department of Transportation) came up and 77 people were not in favor of putting an interchange in there and 22 people were in favor,” Brown said.

Brown said the COG approved a study for diverting truck traffic around Ridgeway, but added that such a detour faces its own problems.

“We had opposition to going down the bypass (Highway 21 Connector/S. Coleman Street) with heavy truck traffic because you’ve got an elementary school (Geiger) at the end of the bypass,” Brown said. “The DOT and COG are studying all three things. Right now everything is on hold in Ridgeway until we have studies done on all three items.”

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