County responds to Town’s solid waste fee lawsuit

WINNSBORO – Fairfield County denies that its $63 per ton solid waste fee double-bills Winnsboro town residents who also pay county property taxes to dump their trash, according to new court filings.

A year ago, the county expanded the fee to include the Town of Winnsboro and Fairfield County School District.

Winnsboro challenged that decision, filing a lawsuit claiming the fee essentially charges town residents twice for the same service and also violates state law.

In documents filed April 28, the county justifies its fee by noting that the general fund, which the county acknowledges funds its solid waste operations, relies on multiple funding sources.

“Property taxes are a source of revenue for the County’s general funds but are not the sole source of general funds,” the suit says.

Fairfield County also continues to claim that former County Administrator Jason Taylor, now Town Manager of Winnsboro, backed the fee, according to court documents.

“The County says that in or about May 2021, based on the recommendation of then County Administrator Jason Taylor, it clarified its existing solid waste fee in the County Budget Ordinance for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 (“Budget Ordinance”) by setting a new fee amount and by specifying that the fees apply to the Town and to the schools in the County,” the county’s filing states. “Thereafter, the County notified the Town that the solid waste fee would be charged to the Town beginning on July 1, 2021, pursuant to the clarification in the Budget Ordinance.”

It was April 2021 when Councilman Mikel Trapp motioned to insert the solid waste fee as a line item into the county budget, according to council meeting minutes and a video recording.

There is no record of Taylor recommending the fee, and Taylor denied doing so in a previous interview with The Voice.

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

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

The county’s court filing comes in response to a lawsuit Winnsboro filed March 30.

Fairfield County had previously invoiced the town for nearly $62,000 in unpaid solid waste fees, leading to litigation.

Winnsboro later paid the debt as a good faith gesture, but only on the condition that the money be held in a trust account until the suit is resolved.

In its response, the county notes that while all county and town residents can dump trash at various convenience centers, it’s the county that transports waste to solid waste transfer stations.

Fairfield’s response also denies that state law compelled the county to include the Town of Winnsboro’s input in adopting the solid waste fee.

“The Budget Ordinance was posted as a public notice and passed in accordance with applicable law and policy,” court records state. “There is no requirement that the Town participate in the development of fees adopted by the County for services provided by the County.”

The county also denied any assertions that it violated state law.

“The County admits that the South Carolina Solid Waste Policy and Management Act of 1991 (“Act”) requires submission of a solid waste management plan,” the response states. “The Act does not in any way restrict a County’s right to impose service fees relating to solid waste.”

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