Council OKs, then denies library funds

WINNSBORO – They actually did vote for the $521,000 before they voted against it.

At its Oct. 14 meeting, the Fairfield County Council inadvertently voted to award $521,000 in matching funds for the Fairfield County library in Ridgeway.

Later in the meeting, the council voted to reconsider the library vote, meaning the county now is not awarding any funds. The do-over vote passed 5-2, with council members Moses Bell and Mikel Trapp opposing.

The library vote paradox unfolded when council members considered a proposal to spend $521,000 to match a Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, for the “purchase, renovation and future operations” of the Ridgeway library.

The county’s administration and finance committee had recommended disapproval of spending the money.

When Council Chairman Neil Robinson asked for a motion, Councilman Jimmy Ray Douglas promptly stated, “I make a motion that we don’t do it.”

A few minutes of discussion followed.

In calling for the vote, Robinson simply asked “all those in favor?” Nobody replied.

“Opposed?” Robinson asked.

“Nay,” all seven council members answered, a majority of them believing they were voting against the money. In reality, they voted for it.

“That’s a win,” Trapp stated.

“That’s a win,” Bell affirmed. “It makes no difference, we’ve taken that vote.”

“The nay was a winner,” Trapp added.

A period of confusion followed before the meeting continued. Councilman Douglas Pauley introduced the motion to reconsider later in the meeting.

Pauley’s motion came following a legal opinion from Tommy Morgan, the county’s attorney, who said any council member was entitled to bring the matter up for reconsideration.

“There was a double negative that was used, ergo the seven nay votes that all voted against not taking action ended up voting to take action,” Morgan said.

As it stands, the money is not being awarded.

County Administrator Jason Taylor said conditions of the CDBG match would have required the county to keep the library open 40 hours a week, which is not currently the case. Taylor said finances proved problematic as well.

“We also had a situation where the library had committed to a portion [one half] of the purchase,” Taylor said. “We’d have to purchase the building for $180,000, and they withdrew that support of $90,000, or half. That left us with a situation where we had to pay $521,000.”

Robinson said he reconsidered approving the money until the library backed off its commitment to pledge $90,000 toward the project.

“When the library withdrew their $90,000, it kind of led me to a little hesitation as far as, ‘do we need to go through this project?’” he said.

Taylor said the Ridgeway area has great potential, but noted that infrastructure remains the county’s top priority.

“Water and sewer is one of those things we have to concentrate on. Growth follows water and sewer,” Taylor said. “The library is something we hoped we could do. It is an area we need to concentrate on.”