County delays action on library purchase

The county recently renovated this building for the Ridgeway library, located on Palmer Street in downtown Ridgeway. The county is currently leasing it with an option to purchase.

WINNSBORO – Plans to purchase a permanent home for the Fairfield County Library branch in Ridgeway are on hold for now.

At a recent administrative committee meeting, council members voted unanimously to table a proposal to buy property the library is currently leasing on South Palmer Street.

It was not immediately clear when the matter would return for a vote, though it will likely be later this year.

That’s because the county wants to pursue federal grant opportunities that could potentially unlock more money to help cover costs of buying the property at 235 S. Palmer Street in Ridgeway.

County Administrator Jason Taylor said up to $500,000 is available through the Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, program.

“It would be beneficial for us all if we try to secure the grant,” Council Chairman Neil Robinson said.

Grant money would be especially helpful since the sale price is substantially higher than the property’s estimated value.

Eric Robinson, the county’s library director, said at the June 24 committee meeting that the property owner is asking $169,900.

Fairfield County property records, however, list the property’s fair market value at $66,700.

The property last sold for $85,000 in June 2005 and was then deeded over to the current owner, Lok-Yan Yip Patterson for $1 in 2008, records state.

“Has anyone tried to bargain with the lady?” Councilman Jimmy Ray Douglas asked.

“Feel free to do so. She’s a shrewd business person,” Eric Robinson, the county library director, answered.

“I know she is. She’s had the place remodeled and now is trying to sell it for three times what it’s worth,” Douglas replied.

Robinson said he and the board prefer to remain in the existing building since the South Palmer Street is an ideal location. He said the library would incur additional costs if it had to move, citing the integration of technology in the current facility.

“If you read the history on this, we’ve bounced around Ridgeway. We’re into our sixth different building,” Robinson said. “Because we’ve sunk so much money into it and the county has sunk so much money into it, we would like for this to be our permanent location.”

At present, the library board has said it’s willing to offer about $90,000 to buy the facility, which is essentially half the current asking price plus any rent remaining on this year’s lease.

Library officials, however, said the owner signaled she’s not interested in that amount because she would lose rent revenue in the long term.

County attorney Tommy Morgan said there’s no harm in delaying action on buying the property. He said the lease agreement allows the county to renew for another two years, with rent only increasing from $850 to $892 a month to account for Consumer Price Index increases.

In the meantime, negotiations over a final sale price can continue. The CDBG avenue also requires multiple appraisals, and would also work in the county’s favor.

“The county is pretty much in the cat-bird seat when it comes to that,” Morgan said.