How will majority 4 spend $7.6M?

WINNSBORO – Approximately $7.6 million is coming to Fairfield County this month from the Dominion settlement, and county council is looking at their options for how to spend it.

According to the $99.5 million settlement agreement, which was finalized in May and resulted from the county’s lawsuit in relation to the failed nuclear plant project, the $7.6 million is earmarked to assist the county in paying down its bond obligations.

Specifically, it’s aimed at the $24 million bond – primarily for infrastructure projects – that the county committed to in 2013, anticipating revenue that would’ve been generated by the new plant.

What’s not specified, however, is exactly how the county must use the money in its debt repayment effort. There are several options.

Make Bond Payments Directly

One option would be to use the money directly to cover the county’s bond payments for the next five years, storing it in an account earmarked for that purpose.

The idea behind this option would be to simply fill in the gap, anticipating that within the next five years the county will have enough revenue coming in from new industries developed in that time to then cover the payments going forward.

Pay to Principal, Lower Millage

Another option would be to put the lump sum toward the principal of the loan and refinance what remains, bringing the county’s annual bond payment down from $1.7 million to approximately $1.2 million.

Because of how bond payments are structured in relation to tax millage, this would result in a corresponding reduction in property taxes, reducing the county’s property tax revenue by approximately half a million dollars annually going forward.

Use for Current Financial Issues

A third option – and this is one that Bell appears to have his eye on and that he says the council is seeking more information to consider – would be to continue to make bond payments in the current fashion but use the money from the settlement to reimburse the county for the payments, essentially freeing up money for other things he might want to use it for.

This, he says, would help the county to deal with current pressing financial issues and other immediate priorities.

For example, he says, the county needs to make up the difference between the $4.2 million committed to a needed courthouse renovation project and the $5.3 million the project is expected to cost. And county leaders need to have money on hand for economic development opportunities that may arise.

“We’re trying to make sure we have every option that can be good for the council to consider, so that’s what we’re working on currently,” Bell says. “We’re going to try to decide what are the best options for us as a county, knowing the financial situation we’re currently in.”

He says that while opinions may differ on what is the best course of action, whatever the council ultimately decides, he hopes everyone will get on board.

The $7.6 million, while a large sum in relation to the county’s budget and debts, is a relatively small piece of the pie in the total settlement.

The $99.5 million settlement, which was announced in May, came after four years of legal process and negotiation after South Carolina Electric & Gas (SC E&G) parent company SCANA Corporation failed to develop its two planned nuclear reactors in Fairfield County.

After SCANA abruptly announced the abandonment of the $9 billion project in mid-2017, investigations revealed fraud and ultimately led to criminal charges – resulting in prison time and other penalties – for two executives, plus a $25 million civil fine for the company.

The Fairfield County lawsuit was one of several faced by SCANA and Dominion, the Virginia-based energy giant that bought them out in early 2019.

Fairfield County leaders have touted the settlement as a win-win for the county and Dominion, which provides electricity for much of the county through its existing plant and stands to gain additional customers from development.

The biggest chunk of the settlement — $45.7 million – is earmarked for development of the county’s much-needed wastewater treatment plant, which is being built to accommodate both residential and industrial growth in the county.

An additional $13.4 million is also earmarked for economic development projects: $6.5 million to grade an industrial mega-site, $3.2 million for grading at the Commerce Center, $1.8 million escrow for rate relief, and $2 million for a spec building at the Commerce Center.

The three most controversial earmarks have been the $2.2 million for a teachers’ village, $2.5 million for a park and recreation center in Ridgeway, and $1 million for a Martin Luther King monument on the grounds of Mt. Zion. A $27.1 million chunk of the settlement is going to the attorneys assisting the county in the settlement.


  1. W winchester says

    A million dollar moments and in western county has two bridges out roads aren’t good enough to drive on thanks LEADERS

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