Priceless

Everything may indeed, as the saying goes, have a price; there may also be things, however, for which a price would be so absurdly high as to render that thing essentially priceless. Other things there are still for which one cannot imagine a price, however high. The Statue of Liberty, for example, and Mt. Rushmore, even in the wildest hallucinations of the most extreme wing of some imaginary Ultra-Libertarian fringe sect are simply not for sale. Ever.

The Blythewood arm of the Town of Winnsboro’s water system, important though it is to the financial wrangling necessary for any future expansion of the system entire, is not, of course, an irreplaceable national monument. It is pipes and pumps, some nuts and bolts, and possibly some switches of some kind, one would imagine. There may also be some wires in there somewhere, doing something; but of that we cannot be entirely sure. Most of it not the kind of stuff one might find on the shelf at the local hardware store, but none of it also a one-of-a-kind work of art.

The value of the Blythewood portion of the system lies in its 750 or so taps and the customers those taps represent. That and the potential for additional customers in the future. For, apart from the occasional bursts of Fairfield County industrial customers – which, admittedly, have popped with considerably more frequency in the last year – the greatest potential for growth along the Winnsboro system is in Blythewood. And you didn’t need a newspaper to tell you that.

Blythewood’s Town Council, meanwhile, appears to be in a mad, headlong rush to emancipate the town from what they consider an untenable water franchise agreement with Winnsboro, and in so doing to encourage the City of Columbia to buy out the Blythewood branch of the system on their behalf. And this is where the delicious aroma of sweet, sweet irony wafts into the room.

Blythewood claims it cannot attract real economic growth with the unreliability of Winnsboro’s water service, and it wants a divorce. In order to make its service more reliable, Winnsboro needs Blythewood to secure a bond to run a water supply line from the Broad River to its reservoir.

Winnsboro has gone through quite a bit of trouble over the last year or two to keep Blythewood happy – upgrading key infrastructure, suffering through the strenuous ordeal of negotiating for additional water from Columbia (a deal that, were it not for the political muscle-flexing of Fairfield County’s state senator, would not have come to fruition). It would seem, then, only good manners for Blythewood to exhibit some patience when considering their water future.

It would seem also only good business for Winnsboro not to jump at the first (or in this case, the second) offer to come along. Sure, $1.4 million is no small amount of money; but once the Blythewood system has been sold, it cannot be un-sold. It will never thereafter generate another single penny for Winnsboro ever again.

Blythewood should not, perhaps, be so itchy in its desire to leave behind the small-town comforts of Winnsboro in exchange for the big city. And it may, in fact, be somewhat unwise for Blythewood to look upon Columbia as their savior. While Columbia might indeed be their knight in shining armor, Blythewood might in a few short years just as easily find itself either annexed into the Capital City, or possibly worse, annexed up to its neck, leaving it little more than an island in the middle of the northeastern ocean of the Columbia city limits.

Does Blythewood want to risk becoming the next Forest Acres, a town within a city with nowhere to grow but up into the air? Or risk losing its sovereignty altogether? Both might be worst-case, even improbable, scenarios, but to ignore them as if they were impossible is to be asleep at the switch of government.

Better then for Blythewood, and for Winnsboro, to come to the table, negotiate a fresh franchise agreement and make for the Broad River with all due haste.