Critics: Roof repair ordinance full of pork

Hoof & Paw President Outlines Desperate Needs of Animal Shelter

WINNSBORO – Critics of a recently approved $1.05 million capital improvements plan say the deal is loaded with pork.

On Monday night, Fairfield County Council – by a slim 4-3 margin – approved final reading of the measure, which is being paid for from the county’s general fund.

Council Chair Moses Bell and council members Tim Roseborough, Shirley Greene and Mikel Trapp voted in favor.

Included in the deal are funds to conduct roof repairs to the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services building, repairs most council members and residents agree are needed.

But the roof repairs were discussed during the budget meetings in the spring and it was a consensus that the repairs could wait another year.

After complaints from residents on the western side of the county about Councilman Moses Bell’s Ridgeway district getting a $2.5 million recreation center the roof repairs showed up on the  July 26, 2021, agenda along with $500,000 from the general fund earmarked for the two mini parks.

But critics say the bulk of expenses – for a new mini-park in Blackstock and upgrades to Willie Lee Robinson Park in Blair – are parochial in nature.

Both mini-park projects are located in Council District 3, represented by Trapp, who couldn’t be reached for comment.

Councilman Doug Pauley said that lumping the parks with needed HHS roof repairs was designed to ensure the park projects passed. He called the parks “a total waste of money” that ignore more pressing needs in the county.

“The roof on the DHHS building was only added to this ordinance so that asking for the mini park and upgrades wouldn’t look so bad to taxpayers,” Pauley said.

Community residents also took aim at the park plans during a public hearing that preceded Monday night’s vote.

Winnsboro resident Thomas ‘Tony’ Armstrong questioned the wisdom behind the mini-park spending plan.

“$1,050,000 to some is nothing, but to a lot of us it’s a lot,” Armstrong said. “We need to hold off and be more frugal with the taxpayers’ money.”

Ridgeway resident Randy Bright called the ordinance “amateur hour,” noting the spending plan doesn’t even itemize park expenses.

“We’ve combined two wants with one need, a need that should’ve been taken care of during [budget discussions],” Bright said.

“If you vote for it, you’re voting for two unnecessary wants,” Bright continued. “But if you don’t vote for it, we’ve got a roof falling in. It just doesn’t make sense.”

More Pressing Needs

Bright and others thought it would make more sense to focus on the county animal shelter, which has some alarming needs.

After starting in January with 155 animals, the shelter this year has taken in 848 cats and 636 dogs, greatly outpacing adoptions and owner reclaims, said Kathy Faulk, president of the Hoof and Paw Benevolent Society.

Faulk didn’t specifically address the mini-park vote in her address, but was emphatic the county has some pressing needs – like a new animal shelter.

To that end, she asked the county to form an animal welfare committee and also for each council member to visit the shelter to observe conditions there firsthand. She said the facility is comparable to what might have been 50 years ago.

“This is a county building that should be funded by the county,” Faulk said. “This is a critical need.”

Council members voiced general support for the shelter but did not commit to any of the Hoof and Paw requests.

“I think that’s an idea we’ll have to research and really take a look at how we move forward on some of the suggestions you’ve made,” Councilwoman Shirley Greene said.

Refinancing $24M Bond

In other financial business, the county unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance to refinance over $20 million in debt. First reading was by title only so there was no discussion among council members. With interest, the debt is closer to $40 million

The plan calls for applying $7.5 million in Dominion settlement funds toward paying down $23 million in debt the county accrued following the 2013 $24 million Fairfield Facilities Corporation bond. In addition, the plan calls for refinancing existing debt to a lower interest rate. 

Both measures will trim annual debt payments by about $500,000 a year, or by $10.5 million through 2042, said Brent Robertson with Stifel Investment Services.

Robertson attended along with Ray Jones representing Parker Poe.

“Since the issuance of that debt, we find ourselves in a very favorable interest rate environment,” Robertson said.

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