Council ‘retreats’ to Lake Wateree Hideaway

WINNSBORO – It’s called The Hideaway at Lake Wateree.

Situated on the secluded shores of Lake Wateree, 22 miles east of downtown Winnsboro, the 3,513-square-foot Airbnb get-a-way sleeps nine, has over 200 feet of lake frontage, and its own boat dock

“The sun neither rises nor sets facing the front,” a listing on states. “It’s a very quiet neighborhood. Most nearby homeowners only visit on weekends in the summer.

The home is an idyllic setting for a summer getaway. It’s also the site Fairfield County Council Chairman Neil Robinson has decided on for the county’s annual budget retreat.

Officially, the retreat meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled for Saturday, April 13, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

However, because the home requires a minimum three-night stay, reserving the home will cost Fairfield County taxpayers about $900 [with a possible $150 refund upon departure]. This prompted protest from at least one council member.

“The County owns plenty of facilities where we could hold whatever meetings we need to at no cost,” Councilman Douglas Pauley said in a prepared statement at Monday night’s council meeting.

“The expenditure of over $900 to rent the house for the weekend, in my opinion, is not a prudent use of our citizens’ money,” he said.

Pauley also worried the retreat’s time and location would make it inaccessible for constituents who may wish to attend. “Meetings like this should be held in locations familiar to the general public and citizens who regularly attend our meetings,” he said. “Holding meetings like this in locations that people aren’t familiar with is a barrier to them attending.”

Robinson said he worked with county administration to find a location that’s affordable and accessible.

He said the intent is to meet in a setting “without a shirt and tie on,” and discuss county business openly in a relaxed setting.

“Sometimes we have writer’s block, so to say,” Robinson said. “Sitting here behind this desk, you may not have the idea at this time.”

Robinson said he’s paying for the food, which consists of a cookout for attending council members. Citizens attending will be on their own for lunch. As for the $900, Robinson didn’t see any issues with the expenditure.

“It is only money council members have not gone to class to educate themselves that we’re using,” Robinson said.

For those attending the meeting, the address is 1253 Westshore Drive (Lot 4-B), Ridgeway.

In other business Monday, council members postponed third reading of an ordinance authorizing a lease agreement between the county and the Community Health Foundation of Fairfield County.

According to a draft ordinance, the foundation would lease some of the former Fairfield Memorial Hospital property from Fairfield County. The county purchased several parcels in 2018.

County Attorney Tommy Morgan said the foundation contacted the county a few hours before Monday’s vote, saying they’d like to include additional provisions in the lease agreement.

Morgan said delaying the vote would give council members more time to review the foundation’s proposed changes.

Provided both sides agree to proposed changes, the lease agreement could come back to the council for a vote later this month.