Future of Courthouse Unclear

FF Courthouse copyWINNSBORO (Aug. 25, 2016) – With a light agenda Tuesday night, the most interesting discussion of the meeting happened during County Council Time on the new hot topic in the County – whether to build or not to build a new Courthouse, and what to do with the current historic Robert Mills Courthouse if the County decides to build a new one.

Acting on a tip from a concerned Fairfield County citizen, WLTX-Channel 19 aired a short news spot on the subject last Friday evening. Councilman Billy Smith (District 7), who was interviewed for the program, said he posted a link to the station’s story on his Facebook page and it lit up with more than 6,000 views and 1,400 clicks.

Citizen interest in the Courthouse conundrum picked up last June after an Ad Hoc Committee for the temporary relocation of the Courthouse, made up of Council Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) and Council members Kamau Marcharia (District 4) and Dan Ruff (District 1), voted to recommend that Council build a new Courthouse on S. Congress Street in downtown Winnsboro on land the County owns. That property is a vacant lot next to First Citizen’s Bank. A week later, full Council voted to ask County Administrator Jason Taylor to look into the feasibility of the Committee’s recommendation.

That didn’t sit well with some in the community who worried about what would happen to the current Robert Mills Court House.

On Tuesday evening, Smith suggested an alternative to the vacant lot location.

“What would it cost us to renovate Mt. Zion for the temporary Courthouse?” Smith asked. “This is something we would need to talk to the Town of Winnsboro about and contact some firms about just as we are with the new facility on S. Congress to get some estimates. While we’re still in the discovery phase, I’d like us to look at all our options. If we’re looking at some of the figures I’ve heard to construct a new facility, I think it would behoove us to at least look into Mt. Zion. Before we move forward on something else, I’d like to at least find out if Mt. Zion is a viable option.”

Smith’s proposal followed Chairwoman Robinson’s comment that Council, earlier this summer, obtained permission from the Clerk of Court, 6th Circuit Court Judge Brian Gibbons and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Don Beatty to locate a new Courthouse building on S. Congress Street. She then asked Deputy Administrator Davis Anderson to update the audience on the history of the current plans to renovate the Courthouse, which were initiated in February of 2011.

According to the renovation timeline, by March of 2014, consultants Mead & Hunt had recommended the Council renovate the HON building to accommodate a temporary Courthouse while the Robert Mills Courthouse in downtown Winnsboro is renovated. But the $3.5 million price tag on the renovation of a building the County would leave behind after about two years was rejected by the current Council in September 2015.

The current Courthouse, designed by Robert Mills and built in 1823-1824, has major mechanical and environmental problems, Robinson said. The air conditioning system in the building is 50 years old and is prone to growing mold. Robinson pointed out that, for all his historic grandeur and value, the building doesn’t have adequate wiring for all the computers and electrical needs of a modern Courthouse.

“That’s where we are,” Robinson said as she concluded the timetable.

Ruff agreed with Smith.

“I think we need to look at all options,” Ruff said. “I’d like to hear from people who come up with ideas we may not have looked at. This is a big deal and we need to take our time and be diligent about this.

Sunday Alcohol Sales

Council continued to fast track Sunday alcohol sales in Fairfield County by passing second reading to determine whether the S.C. Department of Revenue may issue temporary permits to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption and beer and wine at permitted off-premises locations on Sundays in the unincorporated area. Council must pass third reading by Sept. 9 in order to have the Sunday alcoholic sales on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Rezoning Properties

Council passed second reading to reclassify property owned by Tammy C. Faile at 547 Miles Road in Great Falls from B-2 (General Business District) to RD-1 (Rural Residential District). It also passed second reading to reclassify property owned by Danny Holt at 1922 State Highway 34 East in Winnsboro from I-1 (Industrial District) to RD-1 (Rural Residential District.

Purchases

Council voted to purchase five stretchers for EMS at a total price of $67,067.98; a 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe PPV, 4×4 SUV (EMS) for $37,108.00 and three 2017 Chevrolet Caprices at a total cost of $40,058.46 for each vehicle.

Council passed a resolution for Enhanced Rail Passenger Service in support of transportation options for the state and it also voted to approve an agreement between Fairfield County Council and Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office supporting the Sheriff’s Office to obtain goods at no cost from the state/federal military surplus to include armored vehicles and/or Humvees as needed.