Bell touts his achievements at Ridgeway town hall meeting

County Council Chairman Moses Bell hosted a town hall meeting for his constituents. | Barbara Ball

RIDGEWAY – During a town hall meeting held by County Council Chairman Moses Bell Saturday at the Ridgeway Fire Station, a digital recorder being used by The Voice to record the meeting suddenly disappeared from a chair next to the reporter. As the meeting ended and the audience began standing up to leave, the reporter turned to the right to answer a question from a member of the audience. When turning back to pick up the recorder, it had disappeared. An incident report about the missing recorder was filed with the Fairfield County Sheriff’s department on Saturday.

Without the recording of the meeting, the Voice is unable to give a detailed report until the recorder is recovered. Here is a summary of the meeting.

Meeting Update

Bell opened the meeting with a report that the county is resuming its practice of using labor from the Fairfield Detention Center to pick up litter in the county. That practice, which has been in place for a number of years, was paused during COVID to protect the health of the workers.

Economic Development

Fairfield’s Economic Development Director Ty Davenport gave an update on economic development in the county. He said that new investment over the last five years was up to $88.6 million compared to $56.9 million for the previous 15 years. 

Almost all the $88.6 million investment was made during the previous administration. Davenport said that because of that tremendous growth, the county sold all of its industrial sites and buildings, necessitating the construction of a new spec building. That $5 million building is being constructed with $2.5 million from commerce, $2 million from the Dominion settlement and $500,000 from the county’s general fund.

“When companies are looking to come to an area, they are looking for something ready to go,” Davenport said. “They don’t want to wait to build. Davenport said the $88.6 million investment will create $11.5 million in new revenue for the county over the next 10 years.

A member of the audience, Randy Bright, asked Davenport to talk about the county’s timeline for the construction of the waste water treatment plant. Davenport was answering the question when Whitaker abruptly took the microphone from Davenport and handed it to the new deputy administrator, Synithia Williams.

Mt. Zion Building

Bell gave a laundry list of why he feels the renovation of Mt. Zion for use as a county administration building is a disaster, saying the last administration had failed to allow funding for bleachers and basketball goals in the gym and that there was no funding for furnishings.

When asked about that, former County Administrator Jason Taylor said that he had put money in the budget for those items, but that a councilman had asked that the funding be removed from the budget.

“So they were not budgeted for,” Taylor said, but it was council who chose to take them out of the budget.

Bell said that while he was very displeased with the Mt. Zion contract he felt the building was beautiful and that everyone in the county will be proud of it. He said he expects it to open sometime in April and that it would be called the Fairfield County Office Complex.

RW Community Center

Bell displayed a large rendition of the proposed $2.5 million community center for Ridgeway to be located on Highway 21 toward Blythewood next to the county’s recycle center. Bell said the center would include a regulation size two-goal basketball court, and a regulation soccer field which he said had been requested by a number of residents, a full kitchen, a library that he hoped would be able to work with Blythewood library with getting books, and a fitness room that would include equipment for both young and old residents.

A question was asked from the audience about whether the soil where the center is to be built might be contaminated, and Bell responded that holes had been bored in the ground and sent off to DHEC for testing. He said the county is awaiting the results.

MLK, Jr. Monument

Bell also displayed a rendition of the proposed Martin Luther King, Jr. monument to be constructed on the grounds of Mt. Zion. He said spaces on the monument would allow for the listing of county leaders. He said the memorial was patterned after one in Orangeburg. The Dominion settlement provided $1 million for the monument. Bell did not say what the cost of the one in the rendition would cost.

Financial concerns

Bell criticized The Voice, waving two newspapers in the air, asking why he had received two copies of The Voice in his mailbox and complained that The Voice published a story about the audit in the March 10 issue of the paper without getting a comment from him about it. However, when the reporter was talking with Bell in a phone conversation about the audit and asked for a comment about the Nov. 19 letter he received from the S.C. Comptroller General, Bell abruptly said he had to go to a meeting, and the line went dead.

Both Bell and County Administrator Malik Whitaker placed blame for the late audit on staff, saying Whitaker will be assessing the situation. Bell mentioned one employee’s name in connection with the audit issue.

In addition to the overdue audit, concern was expressed from the audience about the county’s failure to make available other financial information including the budget work sheet, budget summary, and the pay register which has not been updated since April 2021.

Comments

  1. Jeff Schaffer says

    What else would he do, besides point a finger at the sky and blame everyone for its color.
    We the people of ignorance and selfishness, elect the people who are ignorant and selfish.
    The big question is ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

    Jeff Schaffer
    Lake Monticello.

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