Water Standoff Ends

Blythewood Concedes on Contract, Continues to Push for Sale

BLYTHEWOOD/WINNSBORO – Blythewood Town Council Monday night gave the OK to what amounts to a letter of surrender in the squabble over the expiration date of Blythewood’s water franchise agreement with the Town of Winnsboro, putting to rest a debate that has lingered for the better part of nine months.

“. . . we will not challenge Winnsboro’s position concerning the expiration date of the current Franchise Agreement,” the letter from Blythewood Mayor J. Michael Ross states. “Therefore, we stipulate that it expires on June 30, 2020. There will be no need to arbitrate this question.”

Last April, Blythewood Town Council blind-sided Winnsboro with a resolution to divorce itself from Winnsboro water, claiming an expiration date of 2016. Such a move would have triggered the sale of Winnsboro’s infrastructure in and around Blythewood. In November, the City of Columbia, at Blythewood’s request, offered Winnsboro $1.4 million for the system, but that offer was rejected by Winnsboro Town Council and their Mayor, Roger Gaddy.

Addressing Blythewood Town Council during their Dec. 22 meeting, Gaddy explained that Winnsboro needed the Blythewood arm of its system to help secure a multi-million-dollar bond as part of a plan to run a water line from the Broad River into Winnsboro’s reservoir.

“For us to run this water line to the Broad River we’re going to have to float about a $10 million bond,” Gaddy said on Dec. 22, “and to do that, northeast Richland County is important to us because it’s an area of potential growth.”

The project should be completed by 2017, Gaddy said.

Both mayors have also previously told The Voice that they are not entirely satisfied with the franchise agreement, and during the Dec. 22 meeting Gaddy offered to renegotiate the contract.

“You think this franchise fee is flawed, as do we,” Gaddy said during his presentation. “We would certainly like to work with ya’ll about redoing the franchise agreement (in a way) that we both agree is fair and equitable.”

Blythewood’s Jan. 27 letter, however, made no mention of reworking the deal and neither Ross nor Gaddy could be reached for comment at press time.

What Blythewood’s Jan. 27 letter does indicate, meanwhile, is that Blythewood is still determined to find a buyer for the system.

“Our joint energies should be directed towards settling on a purchase price for the Winnsboro distribution system as it exists in Richland County to the Fairfield County line,” the letter states.