County OKs deed for Mt Zion

WINNSBORO – County Council voted 5-2 Monday night to accept transfer of the deed for the Mt. Zion property from 1st and Main Development Group, should the renovation of Mt. Zion prove, in the end, not to be feasible. Mikel Trapp and Neal Robinson voted against the County accepting the deed.

During County Council time, however, Robinson said, “I’m definitely for the renovation of Mt. Zion because I see the potential. We definitely have to move forward with it. This [current administration] building is falling apart. I helped put out two fires here when I was with the Sheriff’s Department,” he joked.

Robinson said he received many emails concerning the vote.

“And I got more emails for the renovation than I got against it,” Robinson said.

Trapp said he needed more information on the project.

The vote paved the way for the County to explore the possibility of restoring the dilapidated school building to accommodate a county complex that would include 10,000 square feet of office space over what the county now has. The cost of that exploration would be borne by the developer who has 180 days to come up with a plan and a price for the project with an allowance for extra time if needed. If the County agrees to the proposed plan and price of the renovation, the developer will proceed with the project, bearing the entire cost to completion.

At that point, under a lease/purchase agreement, the County will lease the facility from the developer until the renovated property is paid for, after which time the County will own the property and building.

“Should the County not decide to go forward with the project,” County Council Chairman Billy Smith clarified following the meeting, “the deed would transfer to the County and it would be the County’s responsibility to demolish the building, if desired.”

Smith also said there had been discussions with Town of Winnsboro officials who had expressed a willingness to share in the cost of the demolition of Mt. Zion, estimated at around $200,000, if necessary.

While two residents, Shirley Green and Renee Green, spoke during public comment time, asking Council to not accept the deed and to not go forward with the renovation, resident Pat Curlee spoke in favor of the renovation.

“Construction of an administration building is not an economic driver for downtown Winnsboro,” Shirley Green said. “The administration building is already in the town…Everything is hypothetical…if the plan is acceptable, if the plan is cost effective. It’s a construction scheme,” she said, also alluding that the County would be purchasing the property without knowing the price.

“That couldn’t be further from the fact,” Smith said during County Council time. “The plan is to have a proposal from 1st and Main Development Group and at that time we will learn the price of what we’d be getting ourselves into and we would vote, at that time, up or down, whether to proceed with the project. And, in my mind, community development is economic development, and this is absolutely good, positive, community development for the town as well as the county,” Smith said.

Renee Green addressed integrity and suggested the County should not spend money on construction or destruction of Mt. Zion, but should expand the current administration building. She also suggested the County might not be able to move the confederate monument that occupies space adjacent to the Mt. Zion property.

“That monument is not even on our land. It is on state land,” she said.

Smith countered Green’s claim, stating that the state does not own the land the monument sits on.

Both Trapp and Councilman Dan Ruff sought documented assurances that the monument will be moved if the County goes forward with the plan.

“We are committed to moving the monument, and the Town has said that they would be willing to allow us to do so,” County Administrator Jason Taylor said.

“If there is a way to compromise and everyone can be happy, we can set an example that we are trying to work together to make something good happen,” Ruff said.

Smith agreed. “Everyone on this council has said they would do everything they could, as a part of this project, to have the monument moved,” Smith said.

A & F Committee Report

Following the regular Council meeting, the Administration & Finance Committee voted to move forward to accept the deed of ownership for Garden Street Park from the Town of Winnsboro.

It also voted to defer a vote on whether to accept ownership of the swimming pool in Fortune Springs Park from the Town until the next meeting to gather more information about the cost and timing of renovating the pool.

The committee also agreed to recommend that Council adjust the pay scale of EMS employees, revise the County’s procurement manual and establish procedures to expend funds appropriated by Fairfield County in its annual fiscal budget for collaborative capital public works projects.