County grants full Chamber funding

WINNSBORO— In a span of two weeks, the Fairfield County Chamber of Commerce went from facing an inactive status to being fully funded.

Fairfield County Council voted unanimously Monday night to appropriate $87,507 to the Chamber, satisfying the group’s annual funding request, but with some caveats.

The Chamber had to provide the county with a plan for how it plans to spend the money.

It must also allow the council chairman to appoint a council member to the board. The appointee will have voting powers, but will not be an officeholder, such as secretary or treasurer.

“I appreciate folks at the Chamber stepping up and giving that to us,” Council Chairman Billy Smith said. “That was a big step.”

After the meeting, Smith said the conditions boiled down to providing accountability for Fairfield County taxpayers.

“We asked [the chamber] to come in and speak with us in regard to those type of concerns,” Smith said. “What I expected to be routine-type questions and answers turned into routine questions and strange answers.”

Two weeks before the vote, the Chamber told The Voice it had voted to become “inactive” effective June 30, citing “limited financial support” as a driving reason.

The vote to become inactive was held in a meeting that was not advertised as required by state open meeting laws.

Citing concerns over the Chamber’s plans, Council members signaled they would slash annual funding from $87,500 to $25,000, and gave the Chamber a May 9 deadline to detail how it would spend council funding.

The ultimatum paid off.

Smith said he thinks the Chamber is now heading in a positive direction, noting former Chamber president and CEO Terry Vickers, appointed to temporarily lead the Chamber, is working to turn things around.

“The chamber is a great asset to the county and it would be greatly missed,” said Councilman Dan Ruff.

The council’s vote also drew praise from at least one member of the public.

“I’m seeing more accountability. You’re holding people accountable, you’re holding each other accountable,” Ridgeway resident Randy Bright said during public input. “You held the chamber accountable and you got good results.”

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