Whitaker falsely accuses Taylor of adding fee for solid waste to budget

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County Administrator Malik Whitaker falsely blamed his predecessor for an ongoing dispute over solid waste fees.

On Monday night, Whitaker called out Jason Taylor, now town manager for Winnsboro, for creating the fee and including it in the county’s 2021-2022 budget.

Whitaker

“It should be noted that former County Administrator [Jason] Taylor suggested, supported and approved this uniform user fee during his tenure as Fairfield County administrator,” Whitaker stated.

Whitaker’s claim, however, is incorrect.

Council minutes reviewed by The Voice state that council members, not Taylor, voted to insert the solid waste fee into the current county budget.

“I did not create the fee. That fee was not instituted by me,” Taylor said. “That fee was put on a list of things that county council wanted to include in the budget.”

Whitaker’s gaffe comes in response to the town seeking a meeting with the county to try to resolve the solid waste dispute.

The Town of Winnsboro has not paid the fee since the fee’s adoption July 1, 2021. Fairfield says the town owes nearly $62,000, though the town has said it doesn’t plan to pay.

Last month, the town adopted a resolution vehemently objecting to the county fee, saying it’s essentially a double charge since town residents also pay county property taxes for solid waste services.

Whitaker took issue with the town requesting a meeting only after refusing to pay the fee and adopting a resolution hinting at legal action. Whitaker said he thought the town should have paid the fee first, and then requested a meeting.

Taylor said the town was following the advice of its attorneys.

“We structured our actions after consulting our legal counsel,” Taylor said.

Whitaker gaffed further by questioning why Taylor only now opposes the solid waste fee without providing any evidence that his predecessor [Taylor] ever supported it.

“He has not told me why this uniform fee was appropriate in the budget ordinance when he was Fairfield County administrator, but now as town manager of Winnsboro, it is now inappropriate,” Whitaker said. “I think it is important for him to clarify his change in position.”

Taylor said there is no position to change, reiterating that he never created, supported or proposed the solid waste fee in the first place.

“[The fee] was not in the budget that I presented, but they (council members) voted to put it in,” Taylor said.

How the fee really originated

During typical budget years, individual council members add items to the budget under what’s called the motions list.

On April 26, 2021, Councilman Mikel Trapp requested to add the $63 per ton solid waste fee to the motions list, according to council meeting minutes from that date.

Councilwoman Shirley Greene seconded that request, minutes show.

“County council members request things to go on the motion list. The staff puts together the budget,” Taylor said. “That [the fee] was one of the items one of the council members wanted to include.”

On April 26, Councilman Neal Robinson raised similar concerns about the fee being a double charge.

“A concern was brought to me by a few constituents that we’d possibly be charging county citizens who live in the city almost like double,” Robinson said. “If you kind of think about it, it is true. We typically don’t charge the citizens in the county for trash services.”

During that meeting, Council Chairman Moses Bell countered that the fee is justified.

“The Town of Winnsboro, as I understand it, charges for trash pickup,” Bell said. “Because they charge for trash pickup, the only thing they’d be doing here is, just like any business owner, they’d have to pay for it.”

Winnsboro, however, doesn’t charge for trash pickup. The town only charges a nominal fee to cover the cost of transporting curbside trash to the dumping site.

In the end, Fairfield County Council voted last spring to add the solid waste fee. The overall budget ordinance vote passed by a slim 4-3 margin.

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