Fairfield County Council agenda blunders multiply

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County Council once again had to pull an agenda item at the last minute after failing to follow proper meeting procedures.

At Monday night’s meeting, the council tabled third reading of an ordinance relating to the sale of property within the Fairfield County industrial park.

The reason? Council had never held a second reading.

Ordinance 784 received first reading by title only on January 10. The measure would grant a first right of refusal over the sale of a parcel within the commerce center.

Councilman Doug Pauley called attention to the agenda gaffe.

“I would like to know who is responsible on the agenda team to make sure these agendas are correct,” Pauley said. “We need to make sure that we are providing our citizens with all the information necessary.”

Council chairman Moses Bell never addressed the vague descriptions of properties and the lack of other information on several ordinances.

Bell did acknowledge the council failed to give second reading to Ordinance 784, and supported tabling the measure until after a second reading is held.

“You are absolutely correct,” Bell said. “So tonight, we’re going to table [the ordinance] until we get the second reading. You’re right.”

Pauley also pointed out that agenda errors unnecessarily cost taxpayers money. These mistakes force Fairfield to buy multiple advertisements at extra cost to the county. Pauley also noted that the county is publishing public hearing notices in the newspaper three times when they are only required to publish them one time, 15 days prior to the public hearing. That, Pauley said, is also an unnecessary extra cost to tax payers.

Bell replied to that feedback with a mere “thank you.”

Recurring theme

Council failed to approve third and final reading of Ordinance 787 amending the appropriation of funds from the American Rescue Plan due to the lack of a second. After discussing it in executive session later that evening, council voted 5-2 to approve it, with Councilmen Mikel Trapp and Tim Roseborough voting against.

The ordinance oversight is the latest in a series of procedural blunders over the last several months relating to the agenda.

At the January 10 meeting, council members delayed second reading of a lease agreement with Dominion Energy for a public recreation area because virtually no details had been made available to council members prior to the vote.

“We need to see the proposed lease agreement with Dominion on the property,” Pauley wrote in an email to Bell.

“It’s hard to vote on a lease agreement when you haven’t seen it. If this is second reading why does it not show the full ordinance and only shows title only?”

Bell agreed, leading to the measure being pulled. It’s not come back up for a follow-up vote.

“You are absolutely right,” Bell responded. “Since the ordinance is not complete it will come off the agenda.”

Also in January, The Voice called attention to another omission, this one relating to a rezoning request that failed to identify the property.

Bell initially said that the property information was on the agenda. But when The Voice noted the information was missing, Bell stated it was included in the council’s agenda packet, which isn’t readily available to the public. 

Bell later apologized and said it “would not happen in the future.”

More missing information

Despite Bell’s pledge in January, several properties on the Feb. 14 agenda were not sufficiently identified subject to a public vote.

While some Commerce Center related measures on Monday night’s agenda identified pertinent parcels, the public notices published in advance of the meeting did not.

During a series of votes, council voted to spend $500,000 to build a new spec building, did not vote on Ordinance 786 the sale of two undeveloped properties in the Commerce Center and also did not vote on Orinance 785 to ease design restrictions for structures that might be built on those properties.

A buyer called Windy Hill Development had offered to buy the two Commerce Center parcels. County officials have said the sale would make the commerce center more conducive to development.

On Monday night, county resident Landrum Johnson voiced concerns that the buyer seems to be receiving special treatment. He also thought the sale price was low.

“That sale seems to be done without restrictions, which seems to invite potential abuse of the neighborhood. It doesn’t seem appropriate,” Johnson said.

During public comment, Ridgeway resident Randy Bright said the ordinances on the agenda continue to illustrate the council’s willy-nilly approach to budgetary and planning matters.

“We don’t even know where we stand financially. We haven’t done an audit in over a year,” Bright said. “Now and then we quote a one-day figure of the fund balance, which is mostly meaningless.”

Comments

  1. Bingo. FOIA/Open Meetings violation. Congratulation, Moses.
    Give that man the booby prize. You can just re-name it and slap it back on the Agenda. Where was the 24 hours’ notice that S.C. law requires.
    Nice try. No pass. Do it right now, and put a Second Reading on the agenda for the next meeting.
    How did that public body ever vote 7-0? Are ALL of them ignorant of the law? Was the Town Attorney there?

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