County, Town Talk Water

WINNSBORO (Sept. 22, 2016) – The question of whether the Town of Winnsboro can provide enough water and sewer service for Fairfield County officials’ planned burgeoning industrial growth in the County was the focus of a workshop last week when Mayor Roger Gaddy and the Winnsboro Town Council met with Fairfield County Administrator Jason Taylor and a County entourage that included Economic Development Director Ty Davenport.

After asking the Town for a re-certification of current service it provides to the County’s Peach Road Industrial Park, Taylor quizzed Town officials about future availability of water and sewer capacity for the County’s industry.

“We’ve had some interest, some companies looking at us and they’ve liked some of the sites and buildings they’ve seen,” Taylor told Town Council members.

“The County is seen in a good light right now by the Department of Commerce,” Davenport added. “We’re getting activity, but we’re limited in the types of projects we can pursue because of limited water and sewer capacity. The more water and sewer an industry uses, the more investment they probably have in it, and also people who work there make more money. We’re missing out on some of the better projects. We have all the other pieces in place – location, workforce, etc. – but the infrastructure is not there.”

Davenport said the Department of Commerce has told him that five industries have rejected the county in recent years because of insufficient water and sewer infrastructure.

“At a significant dollar amount,” Davenport said. “So we need to get that rolling.”

And Taylor reminded Council that the County will be needing water and sewer for about 2,000 industrial-use acres the County is in the process of purchasing on the east side of I-77 near Ridgeway. He said his first and foremost preference is to get more water and sewer capacity from within the County.

“Our Alliance is going to step up and spend the money to serve that property with infrastructure,” Taylor said. “They say the quickest and easiest way is for a neighboring county to provide that. But that’s not creating any capacity in Fairfield County. If that same amount of money was spent here in the county on our systems, then we’d be creating capacity. My preference is to do this in-county, but we may be forced to go to another county – Kershaw or Richland (for water and sewer).”

While Gaddy and Town Administrator Don Wood acknowledged that Winnsboro’s water capacity took a hit following the drought several years ago, they assured their County counterparts that the Town would have ample water flowing from the Broad River by the end of 2017 to meet the County’s industrial needs. Wood was less optimistic about sewer.

“We don’t have any plans for additional sewer capacity,” Wood said. “It’s a money-loser because we can’t make it up on volume. And Ridgeway is pretty much maxed out, I think.”

Ken Parnel of EPG Engineering said the Town’s current available sewer capacity is between 600,000 -700,000 gallons.

“For us to market the county to industry, we need better numbers than that,” Taylor said.

“The biggest problem with the sewer is the expense of upgrades to the sewer plant and getting it to you,” Parnell said. “The entire sewer system from the edge of the town to the interstate is a series of pump stations and a small diameter pipe. It’s very limited in capacity.”

“Even if we could make all this work,” Wood said, “with our water lines and upgrades to our other facilities, we’ve maxed out our debt. That money’s got to come from somewhere else.”

The evening did not pass without a reminder from each Council member that the lines of communication between the County and the Town had not, in the past, been well traveled.

“Historically,” Gaddy said, “there’s been very little information shared between the County and the Town whenever industrial recruitment was being done. Maybe the County had all the information they needed. But from my standpoint, sometimes I felt if there had been more communication, we might have been able to decrease some rates, do something to incentivize people to come to Fairfield County.”

Councilman Danny Miller agreed, adding, “In the past (County) administration, we were made to feel like we didn’t live in the county, so we’re glad you’ve come to the table to sit down and talk with us.”

“We’re going to try to do a better job on some of these things,” Taylor said. “We want to make sure that Winnsboro becomes a vibrant, thriving community.”

Taylor said he felt the County Council would welcome any potential to partner with the Town for downtown revitalization.

“I’ve had conversation with individual Council members, and they agree we need to step up and do our part in the Town’s community revitalization,” Taylor said.

Councilman Jackie Wilkes then asked the big question.

“Would you find out from your Council if they’d be willing to put any money into the resurrection of the Mt. Zion building?” Wilkes asked. “We would like a definite answer so we can proceed with whether or not to tear it down.”

Town Councilman Clyde Sanders joked, “We’ll give it to y’all, and we even have a little money we’ll throw in.”

Taylor said the County’s strategic planner will be addressing several options for Mt. Zion during a full presentation on the strategic plan at County Council later in September.