Council OK’s Sidewalk Funds

WINNSBORO – In a close 4-3 vote and after extensive debate and voices of opposition from two members of the public, County Council Monday night approved $50,000 for the Town of Jenkinsville to use as matching funds for a S.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) grant for the completion of a sidewalk.

Jenkinsville Mayor Gregrey Ginyard originally requested the funds, in installments of $25,000 each over the next two budget cycles, at Council’s Jan. 12 meeting. Ginyard said three-quarters of the project, from Buttercup Lane to approximately a quarter of a mile shy of Baltic Circle where the Lake Monticello Park is located, had been completed using DOT grant money. To take the sidewalk all the way to the park, Ginyard said Jenkinsville is applying for another grant and needs $100,000 in matching funds, half of which will come from the County Transportation Committee (CTC).

The item went to committee, where Council developed an alternative proposal to avoid taking money out of the County’s general fund. That proposal, to take the funds from District 4’s portion of state money that is distributed through the CTC for road paving projects, essentially put the CTC on the hook for the entire $100,000. During their meeting earlier this month, the CTC balked at that proposal, but agreed to pony up the $50,000 provided Ginyard could find the other half elsewhere.

With the deadline for Ginyard to apply for the DOT grant less than a week away, Council faced the matter for the last time Monday night. Two members of the public, however, urged Council to pass on the idea.

“Why on earth would we allow the mayor (of Jenkinsville) to come and ask for money from a county that he wants nothing to do with,” Jeff Schaffer, a resident of the Dawkins community, said during Council’s first public comment session. “I want you to consider who you are giving this money to and how it will be handled and followed. This is the same mayor and chairman of Jenkinsville Water Company, the same company that could not account or reconcile its checkbook for five or six years in a row, never mind thousands and thousands of dollars unaccounted for. That’s not who I want to be handing my money over to. Would you?”

Schaffer said there were not enough people living in or close enough to Jenkinsville to justify spending money to complete the sidewalk. D. Melton, also a District 4 resident, said his dealings with Ginyard in Ginyard’s capacity as president of the Jenkinsville Water Company Board of Trustees have left him with the impression that the mayor is not interested in growing his town. Melton said the water company turned away a development opportunity from Christ Central Ministries in 2010 and has hampered his efforts to expand his Broad River Campground in the area.

“Why do we need a sidewalk if we can’t bring a business into Jenkinsville?” Melton asked Council.

Vice Chairman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) later put the motion on the floor to commit the funds over the next two budget cycles. The motion received a second from Mikel Trapp (District 3).

Marcharia called the public opposition to the project “highly personal,” and reminded Council that they had no authority over how the Jenkinsville Water Company conducts its business. Furthermore, Marcharia said, even though the town limits of Jenkinsville may contain a small population, the voting precinct contains “over 700 registered voters, and I guarantee you 50 percent of those voters are almost within walking distance” of the park and the proposed sidewalk.

Council members Marion Robinson (District 5) and Billy Smith (District 7) both said they opposed allocating the funds because Council had not yet even begun to discuss the 2015-2016 budget.

“There’s no way I can sit here and vote for something in 2016 when we don’t even know what the budget is going to be or what other things we have facing us,” Robinson said.

Robinson also said he was concerned that a portion of the sidewalk, if built, would have to be ripped out to accommodate the driveway of the new fire station the County plans to build near the park.

The sidewalk discussion came on the heels of Council voting unanimously to contribute $10,000 to Bill Haslett’s World War II memorial project in downtown Winnsboro, fueling Marcharia’s argument.

“In the last two years from the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant, this county has received $52 million that’s come out of my community, my district,” Marcharia said, “and we’re asking for $50,000 for infrastructure for people to be safe and not walk in the roads. We just sat here and took taxpayers’ money and voted $10,000 without any prerequisites other than the Administrator will follow up and get a report.”

Marcharia added that it was “grossly unfair that when tens of millions of dollars leave that community and we can’t get anything back.”

But Smith said Council had committed to a new recreation center and a new fire station in the community. And, he said, Haslett’s group came to Council last year to make his request, not with a month and a half to go before his deadline as Ginyard had done. Haslett’s group, Smith said, was tasked with meeting certain requirements before Council would release the funds and they met those requirements.

Council Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) told Marcharia that of all the money poured into the county from the nuclear plant, the majority goes to funding the school district. The County’s portion, she said, funds the entire budget, not just any single district.

“The area around Winnsboro for many years was the only one who put money in the coffers for the county,” she said, “so they could say the same thing. We have to look at the budget as a whole, not just for a district. That’s one of the worst things that’s ever happened to us, in my opinion, is the districts.”

In the end, the Chairwoman cast the deciding vote, supporting the allocation along with Marcharia, Trapp and Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6). Voting in the negative with Marion Robinson and Smith was Dan Ruff (District 1).

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