Columbia Bids for Blythewood Water Works

$1.4 Million Offer Sparks ‘Discussions’

WINNSBORO – Three weeks ago, Mayor Roger Gaddy made it perfectly clear that the portion of the Town of Winnsboro’s water infrastructure servicing Blythewood was absolutely not for sale. Although Gaddy indicated after Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting that there still existed no great impetus to sell off the Blythewood infrastructure, he had just been given the green light by Council to discuss with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin a recent $1.4 million offer placed on the table last month by the Capital City.

While Gaddy said the offer was not so rich that it had to be jumped upon with both feet, it at least merits the courtesy of further discussion. Some of that discussion will include Blythewood Town Council, which Gaddy said he plans to address on the issue at Blythewood’s Dec. 9 work session. Winnsboro is in the planning stages of running a supply line from the Broad River to the reservoir, and still needs the Blythewood system, its customers and its potential future revenue to help secure financing for the project. Gaddy said he hopes to make that clear to Blythewood next week.

Gaddy also said the Blythewood system had been appraised within the last two years at roughly $1.2 million. Since then, he said, significant upgrades have been put in at the expense of the Town and Fairfield County. Plus, Gaddy said, there are future revenues to consider when weighing the $1.4 million offer.

Asked by The Voice Tuesday night if the Town would have the system reappraised in light of the new offer, Gaddy said he did not believe the process would get far enough to require it.

The $1.4 million offer came in the form of a Nov. 19 letter from Benjamin to Gaddy, which stated, in part, “. . . Blythewood has requested the City of Columbia consider purchasing the Blythewood portion of the Winnsboro system.” And Blythewood’s request only brings back to the surface a matter that has lingered unresolved since April, when Blythewood Town Council passed a surprise resolution to terminate the water franchise agreement between Blythewood and Winnsboro. Blythewood contends that the agreement expires in 2016, while Winnsboro maintains it is valid until 2020.

Following the guidelines of the agreement itself, Winnsboro last summer voted to hire an arbitrator to make their case. Blythewood, however, did not, and the deadline to do so passed in September.

It was apparent, Gaddy said, that neither side was entirely happy with the franchise agreement as written and Winnsboro would be amenable to negotiating a fresh deal.

“(Blythewood) doesn’t like this franchise agreement, we’re not happy with it either, let’s work together to work something out that would be mutually beneficial,” Gaddy said Tuesday. “But no one has gone to them and sat down and said that.”