Winnsboro Urged to Get Tough on Codes

WINNSBORO – Town Council took some constructive criticism as well as some tough love from two different speakers during public comment, both of whom appeared to want the same thing – a better downtown Winnsboro.

Mike Kelly, speaking on behalf of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, where he serves as Chairman, as well as on behalf of the Downtown Merchants Association, asked Council to devote more visible police presence in the downtown area, preferably on foot.

“Nobody is here to criticize anything you are doing,” Kelly said. “We all know money is tight. We want to work with you. We have some ideas that don’t cost any money.”

Kelly said downtown had issues with panhandlers, and he said the speed limit was not being adequately enforced along Congress Street. Kelly also said cars were parking on the wrong side of the street – traveling north, for example, and swinging around in the middle of Congress Street to take a south-bound parking spot. The baggy/sagging pants ordinance passed by Council last year also needs more attention, Kelly said.

Kelly did not say exactly what ideas the Chamber or Merchants Association had, but said they would be forming an ad hoc committee to come up with solutions. Kelly asked Council to provide a member as a liaison to the committee.

Following Kelly at the podium, former Town Councilman Bill Haslett was not so kind. He peppered Council with questions about whether or not the Town planned to issue a parade permit and provide tables and chairs for the Memorial Day ceremony he has planned as part of the unveiling of the World War II memorial in Mt. Zion Park.

“I’ve got to do the planning. If ya’ll are not going to provide it, I’ve got to provide it,” Haslett said. “I would like for you to take a vote, if you would, on whether or not I’m going to get chairs, tables for this World War II memorial, or either I’ve got to rent them.”

Haslett said he was disappointed to learn Council had canceled the landscaping contract for the park, but said he was meeting next week with Santee Cooper, Chicago Bridge & Iron, Fairfield Electric Co-Op and SCE&G to push for a $40,000 grant to help support the memorial.

“You can’t put a park in without any landscaping, folks,” Haslett said, “but that’s what ya’ll chose to do. So anyway, I’m going to go get it. And if I get it I am going to dedicate $15-20,000, if ya’ll approve it, to go to landscaping around the park.”

Haslett then pounded Council on what he said was a lack of effective code enforcement downtown.

“I’ve got buildings beside me right now that have got plywood on the front of the building,” he said. “Why the damn Council can’t get off their butts and pass an ordinance to make them clean up their building, I don’t understand this.

“I’ve got buildings behind me that are grown up, that are 10-feet tall. I’ve asked for code ordinances to improve it. You think they’ve done anything? They haven’t done the first thing,” Haslett continued. “It’s been a month, Mr. Mayor, and they haven’t done one thing. I’ve got lots behind me that are absolutely snakes running through them. It’s 10-feet tall back there. Nobody does anything.”

Freddie Lorick, Chief of Public Safety, whose department enforces the codes Council passed last year, later told The Voice that he has one officer working that beat. The enforcement process is slow, Lorick said, but it is in motion.

Council sat silently through Haslett’s comments. After he had left the podium, Mayor Roger Gaddy introduced the next two speakers – Brenda Miller and Vikki Dodds of the Friends of Mt. Zion Institute.

As they approached, Gaddy said, “I assume you’re not going to be cussing us.”

Following executive session, Council voted unanimously to award their landscaping services contract to Dean Jackson of Ridgeway. Prior to executive session, Council OK’d $2,000 in economic development funds for the Chamber to use in conjunction with next month’s Ag-Art farm tour.


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