Taylor: County double charging Winnsboro for waste disposal

Town Lays Groundwork for Possible Legal Action

WINNSBORO – Several things don’t smell right with a roughly $60,000 solid waste disposal bill that the Town of Winnsboro said it recently received from Fairfield County, according to town officials.

Town Administrator Jason Taylor says the bill represents a double charge for a service municipal residents already pay via county property taxes – the right to dispose city-generated waste into the county landfill.

Until now, the only extra charge town residents pay is a nominal fee to Winnsboro to recoup costs of transportation to the landfill.

Taylor said the town actually loses money on the transportation fee. He said Fairfield County’s solid waste surcharge unfairly targets town residents while exempting county residents.

“Outside the power plant, our citizens collectively pay more property taxes than anyone in the county,” he said.

Taylor noted that DHEC grant money further subsidizes Fairfield County solid waste operation costs, which he said makes its surcharge all the more egregious.

“That’s triple dipping essentially. We think this charge is invalid and inappropriate,” Taylor said.

In response, the town recently adopted a scathing resolution that protests the fee and lays the groundwork for possible legal action.

“The content of this particular resolution is important,” Taylor said. “We’ve crafted it in anticipation of potential legal action that may have to occur.”

Fairfield County Administrator Malik Whitaker could not be reached for comment.

The solid waste surcharge quietly found its way into the county’s 2022 budget last spring.

The Winnsboro resolution says the county failed to give town officials an opportunity to participate in creating the fee, which violates state’s Solid Waste Policy and Management Act.

It also says the county has failed to contract solid waste services with the town. Further, the county is engaging in double taxation of town residents, according to the resolution.

“[T]he Town vehemently protests the implementation of a solid waste disposal fee as imposed by the Fairfield County Council,” the resolution states.

A source familiar with the surcharge said County Council Chairman Moses Bell discussed the billing issue during executive session of the Feb. 14 council meeting. Bell also directed Whitaker and county attorney Charles Boykin to craft a letter demanding payment and threatening to cut off the town’s landfill access if Winnsboro leaders fail to pay, the source said.

Bell couldn’t be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, Bell answered when The Voice telephoned him but the call immediately disconnected when the reporter identified himself.

Taylor said he hadn’t received any demand letters as of Tuesday. He did say he’s discussed the surcharge controversy with Whitaker, but declined to delve into specifics.

“It was a productive conversation where we both stated our arguments,” Taylor said.

Directing county officials during executive session to write a demand letter and send it to the town likely violated provisions of the S.C. Freedom of Information Act, according to a media law expert.

At the Feb. 14 meeting, the only vote Fairfield County Council members cast after exiting executive session involved the expenditure of federal stimulus money, according to a video posted on the county’s official YouTube channel.

“No action was taken in executive session,” Bell stated in the recording.

However, directing county leaders in executive session to author a demand letter violates FOIA in at least two ways, said Jay Bender, an attorney with the S.C. Press Association, of which The Voice is a member.

Committing to a course of action in executive session – whether directly or via straw poll – violates FOIA. The directive to pen a demand letter also should’ve received a public vote, Bender said.

“It doesn’t matter if you call it a straw poll or you call it scratching your nose, if you’re committing to a course of action, that’s illegal,” he said. “I think the Town of Winnsboro has a claim and citizens have a claim against that process.”

Comments

  1. Karen Tripp says

    Where can I find out more information on this? I was extremely disappointed with how much it cost me to live in Fairfield County, when I decided to move back home several+ years ago. I was finally forced to sell my home due to the high cost, especially my monthly utilities (I lived in the town limits) and the property taxes and all the other taxes that were imposed upon me. I was appalled every month when I received my bill from The Town of Winnsboro. I have not forgotten what a disappointment the whole experience was.

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