Wi-Fi, Water Highlight Intergovernmental Meeting

WINNSBORO – Following up on discussions at their March 25 meeting, representatives from Fairfield County’s various governing bodies were briefed during their June 15 intergovernmental meeting by TruVista Communications on the status of internet coverage in the county.

At the March meeting, Dr. J.R. Green, Superintendent of Fairfield County Schools, updated the group on the District’s plan to partner with local churches, installing Wi-Fi internet in churches that agree to open their doors to students and allow them to access the internet there.

Green said then that the partnership was a “good short-term solution, but I think long-term we would love to see a partnership between County Council and Jenkinsville, all of the entities, to see if we can have broadband access throughout our entire county.”

At the June 15 meeting, held at the Midlands Tech QuickJobs Center, TruVista representatives Randy Adams and Patricia Joyner detailed the company’s current range of internet service, as well as proposed future projects. A list of four future projects entailed improving and expanding somewhat existing areas already served, leaving a huge swath of central and western Fairfield County without service.

According to the map accompanying the presentation, east of I-77 and the northern lid of Fairfield County enjoy coverage, as does a small island area near Jenkinsville. Central Fairfield, from Adger south to the County line is covered, to include Winnsboro and several tentacles of coverage branching to the west and east from downtown. A gap exists between Winnsboro and I-77, to the north and the south of Highway 34, while from White Oak to Blair and the vast majority of western Fairfield, no coverage is yet available.

The map also included the location of all County owned buildings in the empty western and southwestern areas, to which TruVista said access points could be attached, but these would only provide limited coverage for Wi-Fi service.

“I see where we are,” District 4 County Councilman Kamau Marcharia said, “but where do we go from here? What do we have to do to move ahead and get the Wi-Fi?”

The answer, illustrated from various representatives in attendance by the rubbing together of fingers, is money.

“We’re investigating what the cost would be for us to build out to those locations,” Adams answered. “We’re also working on the pricing for the Wi-Fi hotspots at each of the locations and we’ll be getting that information back to the appropriate folks.”

The Town of Ridgeway earlier this month tabled a similar proposal by TruVista to turn their downtown into a Wi-Fi hotspot until the company could offer some improvements to its existing internet service (see the June 19 edition of The Voice, page 4).

Government Updates:

Fairfield County School District

Green reported that progress on the new Career and Technology Center had been slowed somewhat by foul weather earlier in the year. Slated for completion on Aug. 1, Green said the opening of the facility has been pushed back to Aug. 10.

In addition to traditional programs like auto mechanics, carpentry, welding and masonry, Green said the Center will offer as new programs environmental science (and extension of the nursing program), Project Lead the Way (an engineering program), firefighting/EMT training and barbering.

Ridgeway

Mayor Charlene Herring reported on the passage of the Town’s new hospitality tax (2 percent on prepared meals and beverages), and the recently executed $300 a year lease from Norfolk Southern of the Cotton Yard. Herring also reported that upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment plant were under way. Last month, Council approved a $201,700 bid from J.L. Construction of Piedmont for the project. Ridgeway received a $220,000 grant several months ago from the Rural Infrastructure Authority for the project.

Winnsboro

Mayor Roger Gaddy reported that the town had received its permit from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to begin a $13+ million project to draw up to 8 million gallons of water a day from the Broad River. Land has been identified, he said, for future locations of pump stations to deliver the water to the reservoir. Gaddy also said the town was in the process of engineering on Syrup Mill Road to bring additional water to the Fairfield Commerce Park on Peach Road.

“We’re getting closer to having the water available for the industrial park,” Gaddy said, “and we’re on schedule – a little ahead of schedule – with pulling water out of the Broad River to increase our capacity and minimize our dependence on Columbia to supply the Blythewood area and also have enough water available for future economic growth in Fairfield County.”

Marcharia pointed out that the Jenkinsville Water Company, which buys a small portion of its supply from Winnsboro via Mid County Water, is seeking a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build its own treatment facility and draw water from Lake Monticello.

“They think it’s kind of absurd for Winnsboro to come all the way to the Jenkinsville area, draw water and bring it back and treat it and sell it over there, when they can get the water out of there,” Marcharia said. “That’s kind of how they see that.”

Marcharia said the town of Jenkinsville has already begun to annex vigorously, and within the next five years, he said, could have close to 500 people inside its town limits.

“One of my concerns would be if I were a Jenkinsville Water customer,” Gaddy said, “and they had to put a lot of money in infrastructure, new pump stations, etc., and even if there’s 500 people there, that’s not a whole lot of people to spread the costs over. They may find it cheaper to buy it from us than it is to put in a system, I don’t know. That’s their bailiwick. Whatever works for them is certainly fine.”

County Council

Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) reported that the County had just passed its 2015-2016 budget, to include a road maintenance fee of $5 a year on private vehicles and $10 a year on commercial vehicles. The money will be set aside to improve and maintain county roads, she said. Robinson also said work has begun on Phase 2 of Commerce Park.

When School Board member Paula Hartman (District 2) asked for a recreation plan update, Robinson said the $3.5 million project was ready to be put out for bid. Robinson said the project was being bid out all at once, as one massive project, in an effort to secure a more competitive price.