Commerce denies Bell’s claim about funding

Wastewater Treatment Plant Moving Slowly, Ridgeway Line In Progress

WINNSBORO – During a May 12 Town Hall meeting, called by County Council Chairman Moses Bell at the Ridgeway Fire Station, a member of the audience asked how the county would pay for any costs over the $46 million from the Dominion lawsuit settlement that is specifically dedicated to building the Wastewater Treatment Plant. Bell claimed that the SC Department of Commerce would cover any cost overage the county might encounter.

A letter from the SC Department of Commerce to Bell dated May 21, 2022, nine days after the Ridgeway meeting, says that’s not the case.

According to the letter, obtained by The Voice through a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request, Commerce did not agree to fund such overage and doesn’t plan to.

“The purpose of this letter is to confirm that the South Carolina Department of Commerce has not committed and has no source to fund overages for a proposed wastewater treatment facility in Fairfield County,” wrote Maceo Nance, Senior Advisor to the [Commerce] Secretary.

“While we certainly support Fairfield’s efforts to address wastewater treatment needs, we hope that this correspondence clarifies Commerce’s financial participation for the county’s planning purposes,” Nance concluded.

Wastewater Plant Progress Update

While the county has turned the preliminary planning for the wastewater treatment plant over to American Engineering, some officials involved in the project say it is moving very slowly and some of the necessary steps have been skipped over or not been completed at all. For starters, the planning efforts for the Wastewater Treatment Plant were intended to be completed through the Fairfield Joint Water and Sewer System (Joint System), but the county has lately worked without including the Towns and has not called a meeting of the Joint System with an update on the project in more than a year.

The settlement was made between Fairfield County and Dominion Energy at a time when the Wastewater Treatment Plant was being designed to discharge on Big Cedar Creek and the $46 million funding was adequate to construct the plant and lines to the future mega industrial site. With inflation and the project moving to the Broad River the $46 million is likely not enough to cover a Wastewater Treatment Plant and 27 miles of collection pipes.

Deputy County Administrator Synithia Williams says that while the plant will likely require extra funding, she is working to find grant money and state offers to cover any cost overages. We’ll look at everything that’s on the table.

Williams said, with regard to the wastewater treatment plant, it will definitely discharge into the Broad River now, not into Cedar Creek, and the plant will likely be located somewhere in the District 3 area on the western side of the county instead of in the Peach Road area. She said the decision as to the exact location of the plant, however, will not be made until after all the agreements are signed with the Town.

“By the end of this year, we plan to have Request for Proposals (RFPs) ready for the final design of the plant,” Williams said. “The design will probably take another six months or so, before construction begins.”

This final design is promised within six months, despite not having secured property for the plant to be located, a task that took the County almost a year to accomplish when the plant was to be located on Cedar Creek. 

At the same time, Bell is said to be pushing ahead to lay a sewer line between the Town of Winnsboro and Ridgeway, the costs of which have reportedly skyrocketed from $8 million when it was first considered to now close to $18 million.

Winnsboro Town Administrator Jason Taylor, along with the Town’s Assistant Administrator Chris Clauson, say they were looking at the possibility of laying the Ridgeway line when both were with the county. Taylor said the line would open up additional property on Peach Road for industrial development. 

“But laying this new line would be a short-term solution.  Eventually the line would need to connect to the new sewer plant to avoid future capacity problems,” he warned.

To make the sewer line project viable, one official told The Voice that the engineering must first be completed, then a letter of commitment to own and operate the new line must be signed by the Town of Winnsboro. The County should also secure sufficient sewer capacity from the Town. While all of those issues could be easily taken care of, the largest hurdle still remains, finding sufficient funding for a project where costs have risen from $8 million to $18 million. Where will that money come from remains the biggest question.

In addition, if the line were to connect the Town of Ridgeway to the Town of Winnsboro sewer plant a 208 Plan Amendment would be required. The 208 Plan is the federal planning process that controls wastewater discharges.  Fairfield County is part of the Central Midlands Council of Governments where the Plan amendments would be heard.

The county appears to be moving ahead with the Ridgeway line and the Wastewater Plant in spite of all these unresolved obstacles and again without the Fairfield Joint System input.


  1. Jeff Schaffer says

    Why is it that Mr. Bell reminds me so much of AL SHARPTON!
    Could it be that he says things that always come back and bite him on the butt? Or, that his attitude
    seems to be visceral political and never complete with all the facts only the ones he wants you to hear,
    I am truly hoping that people in his district VOTE HIS BUTT OUT!

  2. Buck says

    The current council is trying it’s best to get this much needed project moving. I applaud their efforts. Winnsboro was originally contributing cash a section of service area to the FCJWS. Is the town still plan on honoring this commitment? If the counties settlement money is used for this new line from Winnsboro to Ridgeway shouldn’t the line belong to the county residents not Winnsboro? The figures quoted by this paper and by Ty and Jason was always 10 million dollars to lay a larger line from Winnsboro down 34 to Peach. That option is what would have cost Winnsboro 10 million so the lack of money for no extra capacity I assume is why it was never done. Their quote in this paper was always ” it’s not worth laying the line for 10 million because it DOES NOT give us anymore capacity”. Parties need to stop stalling, being greedy and get the agreement signed and start plant on the Broad moving ASAP. Winnsboro isn’t sharing any of their new water revenue but is willing to share the counties 50M sewer money. Jez thanks what a partner.

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