Naughty or Nice?

It is the season for giving, and there has been no shortage of it in Fairfield County and Blythewood of late; although some of what has been passed along appears more like a gnarly lump of sooty coal than anything one might put a bow on. If Santa is indeed watching, it looks as though he has already handed down his verdict on some of our good, and not quite so good, little boys and girls.

District 3 is getting a rare do-over in the race for County Council. Whether this is a lump of coal or a brand new Schwinn 10-speed bike depends on one’s perspective, of course. While the challenger cannot wait to stick his baseball cards into the spokes of that bike, the incumbent may be rinsing the ash out of his stocking for months. Voters may also be on the fence, and with no election likely before March they will have to endure several more months of yard signs and campaign stops. It is, however, a small price to pay for living in a democracy.

The Town of Ridgeway is getting a lease on the Cotton Yard. That’s no misprint. The Town is going to have to start paying for something they have been using for free for decades. We are not sure what they did to Santa to deserve this, but we sure hope they try to make up for it between now and next Christmas. This feels less like a lump of coal and more like coal mine – shaft and all. Ridgeway’s Town Council meeting was all atwitter over the entire prospect last week, and not without reason. While the majority of Council feels like the whole matter would have faded into an obscure heap of neglected paperwork at the Norfolk-Southern accounting office had they just not poked the bear, the Mayor has a somewhat different point of view. Number one, it is the ‘right thing to do,’ she says. If you’re using it, you should pay for it. Secondly, she says, it was bound to happen sooner or later. The railroad is currently reviewing its leases, or lack thereof, on all of its properties. Eventually, Ridgeway’s number was coming up. The Mayor’s bear-poking only hastened what was, essentially, a fait accompli.

There’s also the sticky little point that the Town has constructed a few buildings on the lot (the World’s Smallest Police Station, the Fire Station, etc.) without so much as even mentioning it to the good folks at the railroad. How these structures, some of which must be in the neighborhood of 100 years old, have thus far escaped the attention of the railroad is beyond comprehension, but escaped they have. Until now. Whether Norfolk-Southern could legally, after all these years, seize and dismantle these buildings would be a fight for the attorneys, but such a fight would undoubtedly cost Ridgeway more in the long run than the $300 a month lease, even factoring in the liability insurance the Town will also be forced to buy.

Fairfield County got a clean audit. Well done. Even considering the one minor finding within an office over which County Council has no control, the audit is a vast improvement over recent years with findings upon findings, many of which were repeat offenses.

Santa, however, must still be somewhat undecided on just how good County Council has been, for there lingers yet a lump of coal the size of a Volkswagen bus just waiting to be dumped out of the back of Santa’s sleigh and down the County’s chimney. If the State Legislature gets its Christmas wish, all 46 counties could soon be the proud recipients of a highway system – slightly used, with some wear and tear and with more miles than logged by NASA’s space shuttle program. A fixer-upper. A handyman’s dream.

The bow atop that ribbon of highways is shaped ironically like a hangman’s noose. This lump of coal comes with exactly zero additional dollars from the state. It may, in fact, come with a reduction in traditional local government funds.

Apparently counties didn’t realize when they were lining up against last year’s landfill bill that it was Santa’s toes they were stepping on.

Santa did not deliver on Blythewood’s wish to find a proxy to swoop in and purchase Winnsboro’s water infrastructure. Not in time for the holidays, at least. But Blythewood should not despair. That does not necessarily mean Blythewood has been naughty this year. It could mean they have been very, very good. Sometimes you get what you want, and other times you get what you need. Rare are the times when those two are the same thing. The gift you do not get can turn out to be the best gift of all.

In the end, put your trust in Santa Claus. He knows best.