Fire Station Naming, Policy Spark Council Debate

Last Minute Move Fails to Gain Traction

WINNSBORO (Dec. 15, 2016) – Two outgoing members of County Council, Kamau Marcharia (District 4) and Mary Lynn Kinley (District 6), called for the Public Services and Development Committee, of which Marcharia is chairman, to name two Fairfield County facilities after individuals in their respective Council districts – one by Sunday and the other within the next two weeks.

Both Marcharia and Kinley will be leaving office Dec. 31.

Committee member Billy Smith (District 7) reminded Marcharia of Council’s decision about six months ago, after the library was named, to not go forward with any future namings until it had put a policy in place regarding such namings.

That did not sit well with Marcharia who said he wants the new Jenkinsville fire station named after the late Rev. Thomas Feaster this Sunday, Dec. 18, during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the fire station. That ceremony was scheduled only a week or so earlier and announced to the media only hours before the Monday afternoon Committee meeting and did not include a naming or dedication. Council would have had to call a special meeting before Sunday to initiate the naming.

When County Administrator Jason Taylor announced the Sunday afternoon ribbon cutting later that evening at the full Council meeting, Marcharia asked to comment on the ceremony and accused Councilman Dan Ruff (District 1) of being “spiteful” for supporting Council’s agreement last spring to set in motion a policy for naming facilities before initiating new namings.

Ruff said his decision in no way reflected negatively on the Rev. Feaster who, Ruff said, he greatly respected for the 40 plus years Feaster had served on the fire board.

“Roy Hudson was a good friend of mine and served the Ridgeway fire station until he was 90 years old, over 60 years, but if it came up to name the Ridgeway fire station after him, I wouldn’t offer his name up until we put in place a policy for naming buildings,” Ruff said.

Marcharia said he wants to honor all the exiting first responders at the Jenkinsville station by installing plaques and photographs on the wall inside the station.

Ruff said he supported Marcharia’s suggestion to honor the first responders but said he thought the fire station should handle that not Council.

Smith asked if the recommendations for honoring the first responders came from the Fire Chief’s Association.

“I didn’t know anything about the pictures on the wall until we had our meeting (last week) and Mr. Marcharia told me this would happen during the ribbon cutting on Sunday,” Fire Marshall Tony Hill told the Committee.

Smith suggested letting the Fire Chief’s Association or the people at the station who represent the community make the decision on how to honor the first responders. He said the County could then cover the expenses.

Marcharia insisted, however, on naming the fire station after the Rev. Feaster and said he had surveyed church members in the community about the issue.

“Have you talked to people in the community and in the churches and told them what we’re planning?” Marcharia asked Hill.

“No,” Hill said. “You said you were going to get in touch with people in the community and I was to talk to Tommy Sawyer, the (Jenkinsville) Fire Chief. He (Sawyer) had surgery on Friday. When I met with the Fire Chief’s Association on Thursday we talked about dedicating (the station) to people, not naming it after someone.”

Marcharia was also unhappy that Sawyer had offered the names of both the Rev. Feaster and the late John White Sr. to be honored.

“Mr. White was a charter member also,” Hill told the Committee. “He took Rev. Feaster’s place on the Fire Board back in the ’80s. John was on the Fire Board at least 15 years or longer. I can’t say one did more than the other. Both were pillars of that community and made that fire station what it is today. I think that’s why Tommy mentioned both. He didn’t think it would be fair to pick one over the other. That was Tommy’s recommendation to the Fire Chiefs’ Association.”

“What I’m hearing from the community, rather than a dedication, I heard naming the fire station. My recommendation is to name it after Rev. Feaster. But you have the power of the vote,” Marcharia said, addressing both Smith and Ruff, “so I’ll let the Feaster family know what the deal is.”

Because the Committee meeting ran long, it was decided to recess and continue following the Council meeting.

During the Council meeting, Marcharia again insisted that the fire station should be named after the Rev. Feaster and that it should happen at the ribbon cutting Sunday.

“The last time we named anything, it was the library named for Ms. McMaster. When it came up everyone was in agreement. And we named it. Now we want to name the fire station and rec center, then all of a sudden this Council says we can’t name anything until we have a policy. Well, we never put a policy in place. The meeting is this Sunday and I want it to be named after Rev. Feaster,” Marcharia said.

Smith put the responsibility for initiating a policy for naming back on Marcharia.

“It was up to this committee to develop a policy for naming County facilities after people,” Smith said. “This policy was an item for this committee to bring up and develop. Mr. Marcharia is the chair and sets the Committee’s agenda and says when the Committee meets. But between April and now that has not been done until 30 minutes before this Council meeting began.”

Following the Council meeting, the Committee reconvened and passed unanimously a motion to delay sending any naming forward to Council, including one put forth by Councilwoman Kinley to name Drawdy Park for the Raley brothers, until Council puts a policy in place regarding naming facilities in the County.

“At this point, it’s a matter of timing. This is an inopportune time to come in at the last minute to (name a building after someone),” Smith said. “Mr. Ruff and I will be on Council next year and I will commit to immediately bringing these items back before Council. I promise that. I just think we need a policy in place before bringing that up. If we want to honor these people prior to having a policy, we could pass a resolution or something like that or place a plaque or marker.”

Both Marcharia and Kinley said they were in agreement with that.