Fairfield Majority 4 criticized for spending

WINNSBORO – Several speakers at Monday night’s Fairfield County Council meeting criticized the mixed messages they say county leaders are sending about the county’s budget and financial situation.

Three speakers addressed the issue during the meeting’s public comment session at the start of the meeting, and then two council members commented during the council members’ time at the end.

“Back in April of 2021 this council started budget workshops trying our best to save the taxpayers without reducing services,” said Councilman Doug Pauley, citing numerous examples of sacrifices that were made to reduce spending.

Among them: putting off the purchase of emergency vehicles; freezing a badly needed law enforcement position; making employment cuts in maintenance, cutting out all temporary animal care assistants in animal control, transit, and tax assessment; reducing recycling site hours; eliminating the car allowance for the county economic development director; and neglecting to fund library and farmers’ market needs.

“I think now to request money for a mini park and upgrades to a ballfield are a slap in the sheriff’s face,” Pauley said, referring to Sheriff Will Montgomery’s effort to help with the budget by making difficult cuts to his own department during the budget process, in contrast with new spending proposals coming from the council.

“Also, now we have hired a consultant that we are paying $200 an hour for, and he has the authority to hire someone that makes $40 an hour and they both claim mileage and reimbursement,” Pauley said. “I’ve been told that several employees have received raises or stipends because they’re doing extra work in the last month.”

Of the three speakers during the public comment portion of the meeting, all familiar faces to council, two appeared to oppose the leadership but not current spending plans.

Randy Bright pointed to the “sky is falling” speeches made by the Majority 4 during the recent budget process, which he contrasted with the spending items now being added just a month later. He said the citizens deserve better than what he deemed to be theatrics, incompetence and lack of research.

He focused his comments on what he called a “gumbo ordinance,” a $1,050,000 proposal that includes several unrelated new spending projects not addressed during the budget process.

The ordinance in question, referred to officially as Ordinance #733, is proposed by the majority 4 for capital projects, including a mini park on Overload Road in Blackstock, upgrades to Willie Lee Robinson Park, and roof repairs to the DHHS building.

“Lack of research in the budget and lack of research into the spending – it really ruins the credibility of our council. And… a gumbo ordinance of disparate items all mixed together… that’s no way to run a government, guys,” Bright said. “I think you mean well, and I think you want to do well, but it’s not working out that way.”

Jeff Schaffer criticized the county’s plan to build a $1 million monument honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and spend $2.2 million on a teachers’ village, which are both part of the settlement with Dominion over the failed nuclear plant project. He suggested instead dividing the money among county residents.

Schaffer also questioned the hiring of a consultant to help manage the county government following the mass-departure of top county officials after the recent election. But he said what people really want to know is what the new council’s big-picture vision is for the county’s future.

“Your agenda to get things done. We’d like to know what that is. Put it out: ‘This is our agenda for the next year or two; this is what we want to accomplish.’ I’d like to know what that is,” Schaffer said. “It appears that no one has a defined plan for the future, and what that is we’d like to know.”

Tony Armstrong also expressed concerns about the quick reversal from a belt-tightening budget session to new big-ticket spending plans.

“I have no problem with [these priorities], but if we’re broke, how are we broke, yet rich enough to do these things at the same time? It’s confusing,” Armstrong said.

“I understand that once upon a time there was a majority on the board that did whatever they wanted to do, had no concern for the other people…. This other council, this old regime, they did whatever they wanted to do, and they spent, spent, spent, spent. I understand that, but you folks – you’re much better than them. You can’t do the same thing they did because they had power then and you have power now,” Armstrong said.

“You still have the responsibility of doing what’s right by the people. They’re going to get their just punishment or reward for whatever it is that they did, but if you put yourself in the same shoes, then you’re facing the same fate they’re facing…. What’s your legacy? When you’re gone, does people say that all of y’all were just alike?”

During council member comments, Council Member Cornelius Robinson did not address the issues in depth but said that he’d like to see the varied new spending proposals addressed and voted on individually rather than together in a single ordinance.

The county’s interim administrator, Brad Caulder, who also serves as head of human resources, addressed the consultant issue, noting that with five major county positions left vacant – administrator, assistant administrator, clerk to council, parks and recreation director, and community development director – he can’t do all the work alone.

“You combine those salaries up, and it’s over $450,000 that we aren’t paying out,” he said. “We have Dominion projects, we have Mt. Zion projects, we have courthouse projects, and honestly I just can’t do it all, so we’re very fortunate to have Mr. Driggers. He is a retired administrator with the city of Greer who has lots of project experience.”

Council Chairman Moses Bell addressed the other proposed spending projects by pointing specifically to a roof in need of repair. He said county leaders are gearing up for projects on which “rescue money” that the county is set to receive can be spent on.

The money he was referring to is the $4.2 million in federal dollars flowing to Fairfield County from the American Rescue Plan, a part of the 2021 economic stimulus package aimed at helping offset the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on state, local, and tribal governments.

“This roof that we’re talking about here has been waiting for about four years, and it’s falling in, and the question is do we want to make sure we keep people safe, or do we want the roof to fall in?” Bell said. “We choose not to let it fall in.”

Bell did not address the other comments at length, just briefly acknowledging them before the council entered executive session to discuss personnel and legal matters.


  1. jeff Schaffer says

    If the kingdom is [populated] by everyone who is permanently blind, it would not matter that the king has one eye and can only see what he wants to see at any given time. And now welcome to Fairfield county.

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