Revelations lacking in Greene’s MZI report

WINNSBORO – A Fairfield County ad hoc committee report takes several jabs at financial decisions tied to the Mt. Zion renovation project but the financial facts regarding the renovation of Mt. Zion did not vary from what had earlier been made public.

The report, delivered at a special meeting last week by Councilwoman Shirley Greene, chair of the ad hoc committee, rebukes the decision to repurpose Mt. Zion into a new county building for reasons she claims are divisive.

“The choice to place the seat of local government on a site that embodies Fairfield County’s segregated past excludes the total community,” her report states.

“Hopefully, this report and observations will help us as citizens examine ourselves and our commitment to fairness and unity.”

While at one time Mt. Zion was attended primarily by white students, it was later desegregated and attended by both black and white students.

Greene insisted the primary focus of the committee was advisory in nature, noting there have been “many efforts to give misinformation about what the role of the ad hoc committee was, and other things.”

Greene and council members Moses Bell, Mikel Trapp and Tim Roseborough have commented negatively on the use of the building as a county administration building. According to public records, one council member spoke publicly to cancelling of the contract.

In March, Councilman Tim Roseborough, who also serves on the ad hoc committee, quizzed developers about what consequences the county would face if it canceled the contract.

“If the county decides to break the lease, it would cost the county $1 million,” Roseborough said, referencing a $1 million contingency fund that was established for the project. “Is that what you’re saying?”

“No sir,” Rory Dowling with 1st and Main, the project developer, replied. “We would be forced to enter into some legal ramifications with the county because we’re on the hook for $13.5 million.”

Greene criticized 1st and Main and Taylor for having joint access to the account without going through procurement or receiving council approval.

“That is how the previous council agreed it should be done,” Taylor said. “Council approval was not required because it was more practical to work through the escrow to pay for change orders rather than be delayed for weeks getting council approval for every change order.”

Greene also took aim at 1st and Main’s decision at one point to stop allowing the county to dip into a $1 million escrow fund. But Dowling took that action only after Bell refused to pay for various change orders that eventually totaled over $328,000, including penalties for delay in the work.

County Administrator Jason Taylor said one benefit of the escrow account was that it offered convenience. He said it gave the county a quick way to cover unexpected expenses.

Greene further criticized 1st and Main for locking Fairfield out of the account.

“The developer assumed that the council was seeking to cancel the contract and stopped allowing Mr. Taylor, our county administrator, to use the escrow account, resulting in additional costs after March 15,” Greene said.

Emails obtained by The Voice state that 1st and Main moved to protect the escrow by locking out the county only after council members Mikel Trapp, Greene, Roseborough and Chairman Moses Bell broached canceling the contract.

Taylor said it was Bell who asked him in an email to stop paying for the change orders. This, Taylor said, made 1st and Main developer Rory Dowling uncomfortable to the point that he moved to protect his escrow.

Greene also took issue with 1st and Main’s expenditure of over $900,000 on various upfits. She claimed this has driven the actual Mt. Zion cost from $8.7 million to about $9.7 million.

Most of those upfits, however, relate to an E911 center that the county would have had to fund even if the county stayed in its current administration building.

Taylor said all counties, including Fairfield, collect an E911 tariff on residential phone bills, which subsidize E911 operations.

“That money is collected and put in a separate account for periodic upgrades to E911,” Taylor said. “We would have to start to replace the [E911 center] here even if we stayed in this building.”

Not everyone on the ad hoc committee embraced its findings.

“I just want to thank Ms. Greene for her research. I’d be remiss if I took any credit for it,” Councilman Neil Robinson said at an April 21 meeting. Robinson was appointed by Bell to serve on the committee with Greene and Roseborough.

Asked Tuesday about his remark, Robinson said it was intended as tongue-in-cheek. Re-examining the contract now is unnecessary and unproductive, he said.

“I was being sarcastic in a sophisticated kind of way,” Robinson said. “She’s doing research on information that’s been out there for two years already.”

Bell, the council chairman, said Monday night the committee’s work was necessary in reviewing the totality of the contract.

“We had been hearing concerns about how much money it was costing us. There was some discrepancy that we had to pay versus what we didn’t have to pay. We wanted to have a total look at the contract,” Bell said. He did not reveal what those discrepancies were.

In addition to big ticket items, Greene also took issue with a $13,000 expenditure to hire Dr. Elijah Gaddis and Peter Thomas to research the history of Mt. Zion. Fairfield County and 1st and Main split the cost 50-50, she said.

“This inequitable allocation of research funding produced a narrative that reinforced and affirmed Mt. Zion’s past … without consideration of how presentation of this historical perspective in isolation affects Black citizens,” the report states.

The study referenced by Greene actually concentrated on Fairfield County’s entire education system, not just Mt. Zion, Taylor said. It was suggested by the study to perhaps house exhibits from all of the county’s education facilities over the years. The teacherage was purchased with those and other exhibits in mind.

Dowling also explained that some portion of the wide hallways in the Mt. Zion building might be used for displays reflecting all the county’s schools.

Greene cited other racial grievances, including the Confederate monument that stands on the Mt. Zion property.

However, she didn’t mention at the meeting that the county and Town of Winnsboro have previously offered to move the monument, but are prohibited by state law.

The Winnsboro monument likely falls under the South Carolina Heritage Act, which prohibits any war monument from being moved or disturbed.

The S.C. Attorney General’s Office has issued several opinions stating that similar monuments elsewhere in South Carolina fall under the act.

Enacted in 2000, the Heritage Act requires a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of the S.C. General Assembly.

Such a vote has occurred only once, when the state in 2015 voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from Statehouse grounds following a mass shooting at a Charleston church.


  1. jeff schaffer says

    Frustrated, totally disappointed in the lame excuses and explanation our 4 council members seem to be using.,
    they don’t want to proceed with the already approved MT. Zion project,  “The choice to place the seat of local government on a site that embodies Fairfield County’s segregated past excludes the total community,” her report states.
     not because of the costs., Oh no, that was not the was that it is not an appropriate site for the people.  Really The people who were slaves are no longer slaves.
    The people who enslaved certainly do not want you to remove the symbolic statue of the times. Since what appears to be so obvious to many of us is that you folks. Shall I be more direct and say just the 4 of you who are attempting to blame your ineptness on a historic statue. 
    Just for the record: Slavery has been in the world since 6800 BC
    Jews were slaves for over 400 years in Egypt, Then they were persecuted and still are to this day, The Holocaust happened so did the Civil War, Auschwitz is now a museum, and the Jewish people have promoted that horrific story in Holocaust museums so, that the history of antisemitism will not be repeated.  You can change your hairstyle, You can change your name, Unfortunately, you cannot rewrite history. Even if you are knocking down a statue.  In the future, if this “cancel culture” continues we can say goodbye to the Statue of Liberty. Because liberty will not be available to everyone. It’s time to see the facts as they are not as you would like them to be.
    The Mt. Zion project, the property has been negotiated and approved. If everything you folks want to do is a reaction to what was. I can tell you what will be.  NOTHING…That’s right nothing productive will occur under your watch only more separation finger-pointing and eventual cancelation. You will be voted out. And everything that was for the people’s benefit that you decided was a racial smear.  Will be resurrected and reinserted. As quickly as you folks have canceled it. The only difference is you will be blamed for your lack of transparency and forward-thinking. And the new council of 2022 will receive all the accolades. We the people, all the people will not be held at ransom for your accusation of racial history. It is not an excuse it’s a fact. Not a proud one but that is the purpose of history to teach us the good, the bad the brave and honorable, and the traitors and cowards.

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