Fairfield Comprehensive Plan survey results are in

WINNSBORO – Poor road conditions, few shopping options and pervasive litter are among the list of grievances Fairfield County residents noted in a recent Comprehensive Plan community survey, distributed by the county.

Wasteful government spending also came up often, with residents frequently blaming the current county council majority for these and other deficiencies.

“I’ve never witnessed a County Council that serves themselves instead of the County they are supposed to serve,” one respondent wrote.

Nearly 67 percent of respondents (209 of 314) stated they don’t trust council to make the right decisions.

Seventy-two percent (226 of 314) didn’t think the council “makes good use of public service tax dollars for which they are responsible.”

County Chairman Moses Bell couldn’t be reached for comment.

Councilman Doug Pauley said he’s concerned that results of the March 7 survey still haven’t been shared publicly with the full council. Pauley said he had to personally request a copy so he could read resident responses.

“Council members need to be notified of what’s going on in the county,” Pauley said. “We have to start with transparency to get council members on the same page. We have to be included as a council.”

Councilman Clarence Gilbert called the survey results “embarrassing.” He also thought the results should’ve already been presented to council and the public.

“These are the kind of things that really bother me,” Gilbert said. “We need to sit down and talk to resolve these issues in a rational matter.”

Recreation Saturation

Survey findings were indicative of a broader theme of distrust and discontent that residents have expressed at council meetings and on social media. The survey received 318 responses (some respondents didn’t answer every question in the survey).

The Voice obtained a copy of the survey results through the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

Road maintenance emerged as the most pressing need in Fairfield, with 77.6% (239) saying roads were inadequate. Only 17.5% (54) found road maintenance adequate while 4.9% were unsure.

Public safety received the highest marks, with a majority of residents voicing support for law enforcement (56.45%) and fire services (56%).

Respondents consistently said Fairfield County spending on parks and recreation is disproportionately high despite scant usage, particularly in the county’s outskirts.

A whopping 75.59% of respondents said they would oppose raising taxes for parks and recreation. Meantime, only 31 percent would oppose raising taxes to fund initiatives aimed at increasing fire department response times.

Driving the point home, many residents mentioned parks and recreation when asked what type of development the county should discourage.

“Parks that no one uses!!” one person answered. “Obscene waste of money.”

“The county needs to get out of the business of providing recreation all over the county when it is very obvious that these facilities are not being used,” another respondent stated. “What a complete waste of money. The facilities we have are MORE [sic] than adequate and are not being used.”

Recreation center spending has skyrocketed since the current council majority was seated in 2020.

Recently, the county started construction of a $2.5 million recreation center in Ridgeway. The center is in the district of Chairman Bell.

Fairfield County also recently inked a deal with Dominion Energy to develop a park in northern Fairfield.

While lease costs are negligible, the contract obligates Fairfield to secure insurance policies providing at least $3 million in coverage.

Parking, equipment and public utilities are also the responsibility of Fairfield, according to the contract, though costs weren’t specified.

The “Fab Four”

Numerous respondents called out the “Fab Four,” a colloquialism for the current council majority of Chairman Bell and council members Shirley Greene, Mikel Trapp and Tim Roseborough.

The four council members vote in lockstop on almost every issue. In recent weeks, Councilman Neil Robinson has sided with the council majority as well.

In response to the question, “Do you trust Fairfield County Council in terms of their Leadership, Direction, Plans, and the decisions they make,” nearly 50 percent (156) answered “strongly disagree,” according to the survey.

One respondent asked, “Is there a choice worse than strongly disagree? That is where I’m at.”

Another 16.9 percent (53) answered “disagree.” Only 10.14 percent (35) agreed or strongly agreed with council’s current direction, survey results show.

“There is no leadership and the decisions made are self-motivated and petty,” one respondent said.

“The majority of the council does not seem to care about serving the real needs of the county, or following rules for correct and legal procedure,” another person wrote. “This is reported time after time in the newspaper and is observable at council meetings, but the problem only worsens.”

Chairman Bell was called out by name repeatedly in the survey.

“Moses Bell and his minions are an embarrassment,” one person wrote.

In spite of most council members receiving low marks, Pauley voiced appreciation to residents who participated in the survey.

“It does help us as a council to hear their thoughts to make Fairfield County a better place to live and work,” Pauley said. “Seeing what the survey says opens your eyes to what people are thinking.”

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