County water authority explained

WINNSBORO – An otherwise procedural vote to revise Fairfield County Council bylaws flowed into deeper discussion about how a proposed water and sewer authority will function.

At its Oct. 8 meeting, the council voted 7-0 to approve a resolution to revise the bylaws addressing how authority board members are appointed.

The county and town would each appoint three members to the seven-member authority.

Both bodies would jointly approve the seventh member.

In its early stages, the proposed authority is primarily a joint venture between Fairfield County and the Town of Winnsboro. The Mitford Rural Water District has expressed interest in participating, but nothing has been finalized.

At the Oct. 8 meeting, Councilman Mikel Trapp asked several questions about the size of the proposed authority, how it would be constituted and who else is participating.

“So is any other water company involved besides the Town of Winnsboro?” Trapp asked.

“Initially we’re working with the town of Winnsboro. We do anticipate in the future to reach out to others,” County Administrator Jason Taylor replied. “But to form it initially, we’re working with Winnsboro because they’re the major provider of water and sewer in the county.”

“So [there] is not going to be a board member coming from another water company,” Trapp asked.

“We’re in discussions right now to look at one other water company,” Taylor said, identifying Mitford. Taylor said Mitford reached out to the county.

Trapp later expressed concerns other water companies were being excluded.

“I wasn’t making a statement that someone was trying to take over,” Trapp said. “I was concerned if we asked another member from another water company. It seemed like we’re picking one over the others.”

Earlier this month, the Jenkinsville Water Company’s leader expressed concerns about the authority in an interview with The Voice.

“They said they wanted ‘X’ amount of dollars for you to join a water authority, but they [haven’t said] what it’s going do for you, how it’s going to help, what it’s going to do or anything else,” said JWC president Greg Ginyard.

Taylor said the proposed authority boils down to economic development and industrial recruitment.

Aside from preliminary talks with Mitford, the proposed authority is primarily a Fairfield County and Winnsboro venture. Participation is not compulsory, Taylor said.

“The genesis of this is primarily because our economic development sites, our industrial sites, are served by the Town of Winnsboro,” Taylor said. “We need to make sure those industrial sites are more than just land, but they have the water and sewer so they can attract the industry.”

Later, during a different discussion, county officials said functioning water and sewer services are vital in economic development efforts.

“We’ve got to get our act together. We need to get water in the ground. We need to get sewer in the ground in order to grow,” Ty Davenport, the county’s director of economic development, said. “Our capacity is 34,000 gallons a day. We should have a minimum of 800,000 gallons a day, probably a million gallons. At the [Fairfield County] mega site, we’ve got to have a million gallons. We’ve got a ways to go there.”

Council Chairman Billy Smith said he’d like to see additional water providers join, noting it could shave costs for customers.

“I’d love to see it so we could have everybody in the agreement if we possibly can and take advantage of economies of scale,” Smith said. “They [water providers] sell water back and forth back to one another. If we could get everybody under one roof,  that would be a good thing for the citizens of the county and help lower their rates over time.”

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