Council nixes Ridgeway library purchase

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County Council voted Monday night (4-3) against purchasing the building that houses the Ridgeway library.

That vote came after County Administrator Jason Taylor advised council that the two-year lease on the Ridgeway library is coming to a close in June, and that the county must either move forward and purchase the building or continue leasing it.

“If we continue to lease the building,” Taylor said, “we will pass a deadline on a locked-in purchase price and might face a much higher price if we later want to buy the building. So we have to go ahead and execute our option to purchase,” Taylor said. “The library board is willing to fund half that purchase price of $169,900.”

Deputy County Administrator Laura Johnson said the library board had also agreed to pay half the closing costs.

The $169,900 plus $30,000 the county spent to renovate the building and closing cost would push the total cost of the building to over $200,000.

 “We’ve moved six times since we’ve had a library in Ridgeway, and the library board would like to have a permanent place,” Eric Robinson, Director of the Fairfield County Library said. “This is a pretty sweet deal for us in that we finally have a piece of property that is available for us to purchase. We have 90 days to respond to this offer. We have until the end of March to re-lease or purchase the building. We would like to accept this purchase price if at all possible.’

Some council members were not as enthused to spend $80,000+ of the county’s money on a library that they felt was not well used by the residents.

Eric Robinson agreed that while the library had been open a year, the numbers were not ideal.

“But they’re in line with how they’ve always been in Ridgeway,” Robinson said. When asked by Councilman Jimmy Ray Douglas how much it was used, Robinson said about 10.6 people come in per day.

“We do a gate count, counting everyone who walks through the door,” he said. He also said the building is only open 16 hours a week.

Councilman Douglas Pauley appealed to council to vote ‘no’ on purchasing the property.

“I think we can do better,” Pauley said. “The price the property owner is asking is astonishing. It isn’t worth 25 percent of what we’re being asked to pay. And we aren’t getting any credit for the $30,000+ we have already invested in it. The owner also won’t let us out of our current lease even if we purchase it. That’s just robbery,” Pauley said. “Have you ever heard the quote, ‘A sucker is born every day’? If we purchase that property, we need to look in the mirror.”

Pauley went on to say the property offered almost no parking space, and he felt it would be better used for retail space for the town.

“We are putting a lot of dollars, resources and infrastructure into this area of the county, demonstrating that we are planning for growth there. If we are successful in this endeavor, we are going to quickly need a larger library space,” he said before making a motion to table the issue for 90 days while coming up with a better plan.

Douglas seconded the motion, then retracted his second. The motion then died for lack of another second.

Councilman Mikel Trapp then made a motion to approve the purchase, but that motion failed 3 – 4 with Trapp, Bell and Douglas voting for.