Town of Winnsboro files lawsuit against County over solid waste fee

WINNSBORO – Winnsboro is taking Fairfield County to court.

On March 30, the Town of Winnsboro formally filed suit against the county, claiming in court papers that the county’s solid waste fee shouldn’t apply to Winnsboro town residents.

The suit seeks a declaratory judgment that the $63 per ton fee is “invalid and illegal”, according to court documents.

Winnsboro also seeks a refund of any solid waste fees it has paid or will pay. The town agreed, under protest, to temporarily pay the fee on the condition that payments are held in trust pending disposition of the case, the suit states.

Fairfield County was served with the suit on April 4, and a deadline of October 26 has been set to complete mediation.

Reached by telephone Tuesday evening, Fairfield Council Chairman Moses Bell kept interrupting as a reporter for The Voice tried to seek comment about the Winnsboro suit.

“I can’t believe you called me with all the lies you tell on me,” Bell said. “That’s all you do, is tell lies. That’s all you do. All you do is lie. Why do you lie so much?”

Once The Voice mentioned the lawsuit, the call suddenly disconnected.

Winnsboro Town Manager Jason Taylor could not be reached.

In prior interviews, Taylor has said the county fee amounts to double billing. The litigation makes the same argument.

Fairfield County has enacted a commercial solid waste fee for years.

In its 2021-2022 budget, the county expanded the fee’s applicability to the town and the Fairfield County School District. Neither had previously been charged the $63 per ton fee.

“The County budget failed to set out the factual and legal basis upon which the solid waste fee to be charged the Town was established,” the lawsuit states.

According to the suit, Fairfield County violated state law by not allowing the town to participate in development of the fee.

The Town cites sections of state law it says require the inclusion of local governments in developing solid waste plans. Failing to follow that process also explains why the court should invalidate the fee, the litigation states.

Winnsboro’s suit further notes the town conveyed real estate to the county in the furtherance of providing solid waste services. The County breached that agreement by “unilaterally” imposing the solid waste fee, according to the suit.

“The County has failed to act in good faith and deal fairly with the Town by failing to attempt to renegotiate any provision of the parties’ cooperative agreement,” the lawsuit states.

As of March 28, the Town owed nearly $62,000 in unpaid solid waste fees, according to Fairfield County Administrator Malik Whitaker.

Whitaker has stated without evidence that Taylor “suggested, supported and approved this uniform user fee during his tenure as Fairfield County administrator.”

Taylor has denied ever creating or lobbying for the fee.

It was actually Councilman Mikel Trapp who motioned to insert the solid waste fee as a line item into the county budget on April 26, 2021, according to council meeting minutes.

Councilwoman Shirley Greene seconded that motion, and Bell voted in favor of it.

The only comment Taylor made in reference to adding the fee into the budget was a request for council members to vote individually on each line item, according to a meeting recording.

In addition, the recording shows Councilman Neal Robinson also feared the fee amounted to double charging. “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.”

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