Part 2: Retreat focused on changing image

WINNSBORO – During Fairfield County Council’s retreat last month, County Administrator Jason Taylor and his staff – Community Planner Chris Clausen, Economic Development Director Ty Davenport and Deputy Administrator Davis Anderson – guided council members through what Taylor called “thoughts, ideas and discussions of where we want to take the county and how we want to work to improve it.”

The focus leaned heavily on projects to change the county’s image.  The first seven of the 14 projects discussed were published in the April 25 issue of The Voice. The following is a review of the second seven projects discussed.

Commerce Welcome Center

“The economic development building is a nice building at the commerce center but it is not really set up for an [economic development] office,” Taylor said. “We’ve looked for a number of ways to add on to that facility. But to show the county off and to do something that’s nice and impressive and get people’s attention, I would suggest we look at something bigger and better out there that helps sell Fairfield County. Something that would let people know we’re forward looking and not just some small, unimpressive office.”

Davenport said an addition to the current building is estimated to be $400,000. A new stand-alone building is estimated at $1.2 million on the high end.

“We need to do something that is the face of the community,” Davenport said. “It’s the first thing that prospects see. We need to keep up with the Jones. It needs to be as nice as those in Orangeburg, Aiken, Richland, Chester and York. They all have great facilities. We need to be at this level,” he said.

‘I would love to build a new building up near the front of the park so that when you pull up to the park, it catches the eye, like, “Wow, this is Fairfield County?” Taylor added. He conceded, however, that a new build might not be financially feasible when council looks at the budget.

“We’ll have to see what happens,” Taylor said, adding several possibilities to help fund it.

“It could house the Water Authority which is a separate entity that generates its own revenue, so it would pay rent in the new building,” Taylor said. “We hope to bring Mitford in and are working with Winnsboro…we’d have 900 new customers almost immediately which would actually generate revenue to help support a new building. We have to have a place for the Water Authority and this would be an appropriate place for it.”

Sewer Plant Property

“We need to purchase property for a sewer plant and get it nailed down,” Taylor said. “That’s a top priority.”

“We plan to design a two million gallon plant expandable to four-million gallons that will initially discharge up to 2 million gallons of effluent a day.” Davenport said.

“We’ve been working with DHEC on this for a long time, Taylor said. “Commerce awarded us $2 million to survey and preform engineering studies on the megasite. A portion of those funds were also used for engineering studies necessary to design the wastewater treatment plant. We are working with Thomas and Hutton Engineering to get the permitting and design engineering approved by DHEC,” Taylor said.

Then, when we have someone who wants to locate on the megasite, we drop the hammer and build the treatment plant. They’d be looking at only 15 months of construction instead of 3 – 4 years if they had to start from ground zero.”

Farmer’s Market

“Economic Development brings jobs. Community Development makes people who get those jobs want to say here and spend their paychecks here. And that’s what the Farmer’s Market and the Market parking lot are about” Taylor said.

The County has restored the stable building on East Washington Street with $35,000 from the Chamber of Commerce. Taylor said that while it is being restored for use by the Farmer’s Market, it can also be used as an event center for weddings, reunions, parties and other events that will bring in revenue.

The County also plans to repave and upgrade the parking lot behind the Market building for parking. Taylor said the idea is to bring people to the downtown area. The events would also bring in revenue for the County. He said it would be a draw for the downtown area.

“Mom and pop stores and boutiques are what we want downtown. We need an anchor drawing card restaurant downtown. The buildings in downtown are cheap, but it takes a pile of money to get them up and going. We’re looking for more retail and restaurants downtown.”

Upgrade Fire Stations

All but about four of our firefighters are volunteers, so if we have a fire during working hours, we have a bad situation,” Anderson said. “To make sure we have round the clock service, we’re going to start improving our fire station living and sleeping areas and showers.”

“We also need to move toward having more paid staff,” Taylor said. “If we have a huge plant located at the megasite, we can’t tell them we have a volunteer fire service. No, they’re going to want dedicated service. For economic development, we have to assure them that if they have a need, someone’s going to show up.

Court House

Taylor said the Court House must be restored because of moisture, mildew and mold and other problems. It is a bond project that was allocated about $2.1 million.

“But that’s an old number and we’ll need to add about 10 percent more now,” Taylor said.

Anderson said about $1.3 million is allocated for repairs of the HVAC, lighting and infrastructure for computer systems. To save money, the county asked engineers to estimate costs to work on the building without moving out the employees.

“So they will be in there working on it at night and by 9 a.m., the employees can go back in to work during the day. The night and weekend work will cost another $300,000,” Anderson said, “plus an additional 10 percent. So we’re going to try to do that – working at nights and weekends and stay within budget.”

Drawdy Parking Lot

“When you go down to Drawdy Park in the afternoon, it’s chaos with 200 – 300 kids,” Anderson said. “So we’re going to try to put a parking lot there by the old Everett school, so people can actually park and walk down to the fields instead of cars parking on the graveyard and other places they shouldn’t be. This should make it a better municipal park for the citizens.”

A-Tax & Penny Sales Tax

“We recently passed the A-Tax ordinance with projections of revenue at about $250,000 a year,” Taylor said. “This revenue stream will do a lot to help community development. We won’t see immediate results because we’ll let it build up about a year.”

“We’ve got our attorney working on a penny sales tax,” Taylor said. “That’s something that a lot of communities use to a great effect for growth,” Taylor said. “But before we pass it, we have to figure out exactly where we’re going to designate the revenues to go.”