County OK’s CDBG Priorities

Chairwoman: Strategic Plan Grammatical Mess

WINNSBORO (Dec. 1, 2016) – Although the deadline was extended not once, but twice, County Grants Coordinator Steven Gaither told County Council Monday night that only about 700 people had responded to the recently completed Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) Needs Assessment Survey.

Nevertheless, Gaither presented Council with the survey’s findings and asked Council to approve the survey and rank the priorities so the County would be ready for 2017 grant funds.

Prior to Gaither’s presentation, Ridgeway resident Randy Bright said during the first public comment segment of the meeting that he didn’t think the survey was promoted very well.

“In talking to the population at-large, I didn’t find that many people were aware of it, so I would like to hear what sort of participation we got out of this,” Bright said. “It wasn’t even working the first time I tried it (on the County’s website). We have a survey, it doesn’t work and then it’s halfway fixed, and not many people know about the survey; we want good democracy, we want to satisfy the will of the people.”

Economic development topped the survey’s priority list, Gaither said, with an emphasis on job creation and job retention in the county.

Infrastructure, specifically water and sewer, was second on the list.

“Water is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” Gaither said. “Everyone needs it.”

Third on the list, Gaither said, was the apparent need for a multi-use community facility in the county, one available to young people and senior citizens, as well as people with disabilities and special needs.

Responding to a question from District 7 Councilman Billy Smith, Gaither said Council would have to approve the results of the survey by the end of the year at the latest in order for the County to be able to qualify for 2017 CDBG grants.

“We need a vote from Council ranking the top priorities that Fairfield has pursuing CDBG grants,” County Administrator Jason Taylor told Council. “As it’s laid out right now, economic development is the first priority, infrastructure is second and public facilities is third. Council is not bound to that, but we do need a vote by Council at some point ranking their priorities.”

Although a motion and a second were put forward to accept the results, Smith said he would like to wait until Council’s Dec. 12 meeting to accept the findings.

“This is the first time we’ve seen this,” Smith said. “We haven’t had a chance to look at this yet, so if the members who motioned and seconded it would be willing to pull that back until our next meeting, I think that would be appropriate for us to move forward.”

But Councilman Kamau Marcharia (District 4) said the information in the survey was actually nothing new to Council.

“I haven’t looked at it either, or the details, but these are subjects we have been discussing,” Marcharia said. “Unless it’s been changed in any kind of way, we should be thoroughly familiar with the three things that have been offered.”

Council approved the findings 6-1, with Smith voting Nay.

Strategic Plan

Speaking during the second public comment portion of the evening, Bright asked Council to formulate a plan of attack before proceeding with execution of their latest Strategic Plan.

“I think one of the problems in the past with our surveys and our strategic plans is we really didn’t plan to execute it,” Bright said. “We couldn’t quite figure it out. I’ve got a lot more confidence in this Council in doing that, but I would like to see us move forward to making plans so that we set forth goals and strategies before we start delving out into the plan.”

Chairwoman Carolyn Robinson (District 2) said that at the moment, the County is struggling with T.Y. Lin International to get a copy of the plan that isn’t filled with errors and omissions.

“There’s a lot of verbiage in there, a lot of comments – a lot of mistakes,” Robinson said. “Blythewood does not sit in the county of Fairfield. So many of our commerce department stuff that we have in industry in our parks was not listed. Misspelled it. I’m just going to tell you straight up: I told him (David Gjertson of T.Y. Lin) a couple of weeks ago when he was here going through it, if I were his English teacher he would have a zero on that whole thing, because when I marked it up I had more yellow marks in it than there were black marks. That’s a sad state of a report to come to us, for that much time to have been spent with it.

“We paid too much money for that,” Robinson said, “and the least they could do is hire somebody to spell check. ‘Barrier’ – B-A-R-R-E-I-E-R. You find those kinds of things in there – most unacceptable for a county that is paying you to do a report.”