Wish List

Christmas came early to Fairfield this year. Yes the Council election results delivered a true gift of hope to all of Fairfield. The days of extravagance and waste are soon behind us. The days of transparency and common sense are soon upon us. Like children on Christmas Eve we anxiously await the beginning of our new Council on the second Monday of January.

One refreshing trait of the new Council-elect members is their obvious embrace of citizen feedback. That is how democracy is supposed to work. Like you, I have a few suggested immediate priorities for our new ‘open door ” council members. In no special order, the aforementioned “at once” priorities are:

• Allow the people a referendum on the Fairfield Facilities Corporation bond. This yoke in the form of a bond has been clouded in secrecy since its inception. A referendum will force a thorough review of the potential return on investment from our shell corporation’s $60 million+ debt commitment (council will not release the exact numbers, thus, this is an educated guess). There is still time to pay off the bond and save the county over $50 million. Surely a referendum will manifest a productive county wide debate which allow true citizen input in the decision process on whether to mortgage the county’s future.

• Begin to reduce our well documented government waste and inefficiency. Charge the administrator and his staff to produce a plan within a month which reduces total county expenses by 10 percent and improves services. Start by requiring a comprehensive bid (price bids and qualify bids) process for all vendor contracts which exceed $10,000. The aforementioned process will produce substantial savings and improve services. Secondly, implement a disciplined vendor accountability system which prohibits costly overruns and payment for substandard services. Of course, there are many other opportunities to cut waste in a county which has wanting services despite having the state’s third highest property tax rate in addition to an annual windfall of tens of millions dollars from the SCANA Corporation. Admittedly, a 10 percent expense reduction is a modest goal for a county which spends nearly twice as much per capita as its 18 rural peers. It is, however, a much needed starting point for the long journey to building a productive and effective government.

• Address our county’s desperate need for water infrastructure. Fairfield’s preponderance of wells (including those which are now dry) and low fire insurance ratings clearly point to an extreme citizen vulnerability. Our very lives and livelihoods are dependent upon a reliable water supply. Fortunately, we have now elected the kind of council which is capable of fashioning a real water infrastructure with our various water suppliers. Skilled leadership always overcomes the obstacles which prevented weak leaders from succeeding. Lastly, we can finance a comprehensive water structure with the aforementioned annual government waste savings.

• Commence a decade long overdue County Administrator recruitment. Surely the most important position in the county requires a proper vetting by the media, the council and the citizens. We have been denied our rights to a full vetting of any administrator for this entire century. Now is a great time to begin this process. We will never know we have the best candidate unless we actually have a robust recruiting process. Of course, invite Mr. Pope to be a candidate. Additionally, let’s insist on our right to ensure we hire a fully focused administrator who does not have another job(s).

• Reduce council personal expenses. Eliminate all of their costly operational (pens, computer service, phones, etc.) expenses. Additionally, eliminate their mileage to and from meetings but allow them mileage for meetings outside the county. Council members are paid well enough with their high salaries for their part time jobs. Reduce hotel and meal expense limits by 20 percent. Fine dining and resort hotels are certainly not appropriate perks for County business. Why shouldn’t Council travel modestly like the rest of us on our dimes?

• Create a two way citizen/council dialogue session at each council meetings. Two way discussions are always more productive than one way personal soliloquies and off-the-cuff accusations. An end of session two-way dialogue will greatly improve understandings, reduce stress for all and facilitate county unity.

• Ensure our Economic Development team develops a plan within a month to diversify our economy away from traditional manufacturing. Our county still bares many physical, emotional and economic scars inflicted by years of putting all of our efforts to attract only traditional manufacturing. Timber primary, timber secondary, tourism, biomass energy, outlet malls, call centers and distribution centers are just a few of the industries which would be a good fit for our county.

These are just a few suggestions of mine for our new council. What say you? And Merry Christmas to all.

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