County budgets funds for more patrol cars, Drawdy upfit

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County Council is eyeing a 10 percent cut to outside agency funding, hoping the move frees up money to buy more patrol cars.

The council is also considering modifying the economic development director’s vehicle allowance, raising deputy coroner pay and cited to appropriate nearly $40,000 more to the Drawdy Park parking lot paving project.

But one council member pitched a fit, saying the proposed $46.7 million budget disproportionately funds Winnsboro and central Fairfield County.

Even before approval of the agenda, Councilman Moses Bell raised concerns about the Drawdy Park request. Bell has been unsuccessfully pressing for a $400,000 community center in Ridgeway.

“I don’t understand why we make recommendations to give more money to Drawdy Park in the middle of… this is almost June,” Bell said. “We’re going to add more money to the budget when we just allocated money to the budget and no other areas are getting money.”

Later, when the Drawdy Park request came up for a vote, Bell continued to press.

“Here we are making other recommendations to council about spending an extra $39,949, yet these other communities don’t have anything. We continue to put money into a select few areas,” Bell said.

Other council members noted demand doesn’t exist for more community centers in the county’s outlying areas.

Councilman Douglas Pauley asked where most residents who participate in county recreation come from. Recreation director Russell Price said it’s “centrally located,” noting that most games and events occur at Drawdy Park.

“Most people feel like it’s more convenient to come here. People in Jenkinsville don’t want to go to Ridgeway. People in Ridgeway don’t like going all the way to Jenkinsville,” Pauley said.

“We have to make compromises. We can’t put everything outside the back door,” councilwoman Bertha Goins added. “Life doesn’t work like that. You have to have a centralized location.”

In the end, council members voted 4-3 to approve the Drawdy Park request. Council members Jimmy Ray Douglas, Mikel Trapp and Bell opposed the measure.

There were more fireworks during the budget work session that followed the council meeting.

No votes were taken but a majorly of council members reached a consensus to cut funding to outside agencies by 10 percent. Some supported deeper cuts of 15 or 20 percent before agreeing to 10 percent.

Bell was furious.

“This is a disaster. I mean, come on ya’ll. Look at the ones getting cut and tell me what you all think. What have we become?” Bell said.

“You’re talking about taking an already tight budget and cutting it 20%?”

The cuts wouldn’t impact fee-based groups, such as memberships in the S.C. Association of Counties, Central Midlands Council of Governments and the I-77 Alliance. Those groups and others like them were exempt because the fees are formula based, impact contracts and/or require ordinance changes, Taylor said.

One agency impacted is Midlands Technical College, which requested $158,000.

Pauley noted that MTC is already budgeted to receive $75,000 in county money per the Fairfield County School District Promise Program, which offers free tuition to qualifying county residents.

“We made a commitment to pay for free tuition,” Pauley said. “If we’re going to do that from the Promise Program, I don’t see what the other $158,000 is being used for if we’re setting aside money to pay for tuition anyway.”

Council members did approve purchasing three patrol vehicles in addition to three vehicles already included in the draft budget.

The three vehicles previously budgeted cost $33,711 apiece and an additional $13,000 for equipment in each car, or $140,133 total, said Anne Bass, the county’s deputy comptroller.

In addition, the county plans to give Ty Davenport, the county’s economic development director, a $1,000 monthly vehicle allowance in lieu of a county vehicle.

The county had previously budgeted $750, but Davenport requested $1,000 because the allowance is taxed and it was not enough to cover expenses.

Council members also approved a request to increase deputy coroner pay from $300 to $400 a month.