Mayor: Saving Mt. Zion Would Require County Money

Mt-Zion_IMG_3312 copyWINNSBORO (June 23, 2016) – As part of his report to fellow elected officials at Monday night’s Intergovernmental meeting at the Midlands Tech QuickJobs campus, Winnsboro Mayor Roger Gaddy told County Council that if the Mt. Zion Institute property was going to be saved, the County would have to get into the game.

Winnsboro retained ownership of the school property, located at 205 N. Walnut St., last March after efforts to stabilize and restore the buildings there by the Friends of Mt. Zion Institute came up short of contractual deadlines. A proposal from the Banyan Foundation to convert the school building into market-level senior living apartments has since met with strong neighborhood opposition and has to date not progressed.

The Town has held off on demolishing the buildings on the site, Gaddy said, until the details of the County’s long-range strategic plan can be made available.

“I think we tried a developer – that didn’t work. We tried private citizens – that didn’t work,” Gaddy said Monday. “I think we’ve kind of bent over backwards to do what we could to save some of that facility, but I think the reality is it’s extremely expensive.”

Monday night, Gaddy told County Council members that the County’s long-ranger planners, T.Y. Lin International, had, during their early planning stages, told the Town they thought it was important to save the Mt. Zion School property.

Gaddy said he did not agree with T.Y. Lin’s initial assessment of the property, but added that saving the auditorium, at least, might be a possibility – but not without help from the County.

“Being a realist, we know that if there is anything that wants to be done, we would have to have input – i.e. money – from the County for that,” Gaddy said. “I put this out because I would like County Council to think about that. If they don’t have any inclination, desire or ability to help with any significant funding of anything that this study might recommend, we would appreciate them letting us know and we’ll get rid of that eyesore.”

The final draft of the T.Y. Lin study, the County reported later during Monday night’s meeting, was due on July 11. A 30-day review period will follow, the County said, and the final document will be available by Aug. 15.

“Winnsboro certainly does not have the funds or ability to be able to do any significant renovations,” Gaddy said. “It would be nice to maybe save a minimal part of it, but if there’s not any significant viable partnership that can be done with that, then I have no problem, neither does the rest of Town Council, with making more green out of it.”

Water Updates

Gaddy also reported that the Broad River water project was running “a couple of months” behind schedule. The holdup, he said, was in securing all the necessary easements to run the water line from the river and into the Town’s reservoir. Gaddy estimated that half of the easements had been acquired, but for the rest, condemnation procedures would be necessary.

The Town is also in the process of securing a $6 million bond for utility infrastructure improvements, Gaddy said.

“Most small towns our size, their infrastructure – water, sewer – most of the stuff under the ground has been there for quite some time,” Gaddy said. “For years we’ve been doing a lot of patchwork, so hopefully we can do larger stretches of infrastructure and get it to where it’s up to snuff and we don’t have as many problems with it.”

Gaddy also reported that the Town’s efforts to put in a permanent pump station in Blythewood in order to supply water for the Fairfield Commerce Park had run into a snag.

“We haven’t hit a brick wall, but we have hit some speed bumps in that that were fairly steep,” he said. “(We’ve) run into easement problems with BB&T Bank and some contractual issues, and also trying to secure some property (where we can locate the) pump station. We’ll make progress on that and we’ll get that done, but it’s been somewhat arduous at best and slower than anticipated.”