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Tragedy hits close

First Posted: 9:13 am - June 26th, 2015

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FAIRFIELD COUNTY — Fairfield County Council’s most recent meeting was light on agenda items, but heavy with emotion.

Council didn’t have any public hearings, presentations, ordinances, resolutions, orders, old business or new business on the agenda, but council addressed recent events that are being felt statewide.

“It’s been a pretty sad week in the state of South Carolina since last Wednesday with the needless, useless murders committed in Charleston,” said Councilman Marion Robinson of District 5. “Those murders, of course, touched everywhere in the state.”

Robinson said Sen. Clementa Pinckney being among those killed in the Charleston shooting intensifies the statewide sense of loss.

“But you always wonder when you hear something like this, you wonder if it touched anybody in Winnsboro,” Robinson said. “Well, it did.”

The Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, who had been a pastor at Wayman Chapel Church, formerly Wayman AME Church, was one of the victims.

“He served here as a pastor from 1982 to 1988,” Robinson said.

Councilman Billy Smith of District 7 spoke of a more personal matter, the recent loss of his mother, but related it to state events.

Smith thanked Fairfield County residents for inundating him with calls, emails and vocal support.

“I just wanted to express thanks to everyone for that,” Smith said. “I sincerely appreciate that.”

Smith shared a sentiment from the memorial service.

“The pastor said that my mother had spoken to him that week, a few days before passing, and had told him, ‘I’m not as good as I need to be, but I’m better than I was,’ so I think that’s something we can all reflect on and live by in the wake of what has happened in Charleston,” Smith said. “I think we’ve already seen some improvements as recently as today at 4 o’clock, if you know what I’m talking about.”

Smith lauded South Carolina’s progress and the lack of violence after the tragedy.

“This state is moving forward, and I’m glad to see it,” Smith said. “I just can’t express what I have thought of in the last few days for the people of Charleston and the state of South Carolina in the aftermath of what has happened.”

In other business, County Administrator Milton Pope provided a personnel update and a clarification of Fairfield County’s new road usage fee’s genesis.

Pope shared the news that Tiffany Harrison has resigned as economic development director for Fairfield County.

“From my assessment she has done a tremendous job of bringing progress to Fairfield County,” Pope said. “She is going to be moving on and she is more than likely still going to have a relationship with this county in her new statewide capacity with MEBA (Midlands Education and Business Alliance).”

Pope said project managers from the Central Alliance are already working on Fairfield County’s behalf as it works to fill the newly vacant position. “We won’t miss a beat there,” Pope said.

Pope said there has been inaccurate information circulated about the road usage fee Fairfield County Council voted to adopt for the fiscal year beginning in July.

“It seems there has been some discussion about the road maintenance fee and maybe some suggestions that council had mentioned that it went through its process of approval by the insistence of the CTC or because they required us to do that,” Pope said. “The CTC has never requested the county enact a road maintenance fee.”

During public comment, Dan Dennis, president of Dennis Corporation, and Fairfield County resident Val Green both alleged in separate instances that procurement policy has not been followed.

Dennis believes his company lost a contract as a result of improper policy, and Green said he believes the subcommittee recommendation that Infrastructure Group provide an employee as County Paving Consultant did not follow procurement code.

Dennis cited the Brooks Act, a federal law passed in 1972 that states the U.S. Federal Government select engineering and architecture firms based on qualifications and experience, not pricing.

“To my knowledge, proper procurement procedure was not followed,” Dennis said. “We did not bid on this project, we submitted our qualifications.”

Green is litigiously involved with Infrastructure Group, and feels Infrastructure Group did not meet the requirements of a 2013 C-Fund Contract. He further alleged that Pope ignored procurement code and perpetrated fraud.

“Mr. Pope’s selection of these individuals as unbiased representatives, and the process of them recommending an engineering firm was the perpetration of public fraud,” Green said.

Pope repudiated both claims of improper procurement as did Deputy County Administrator Davis Anderson.

Anderson said in the case of Dennis’ complaint, a committee was tasked with interviewing the three most responsive bids as part of the procurement process and chose not to conduct interviews.

Davis said administration had already decided to re-solicit the job and applauded procurement for catching the oversight.

“We have the right to refuse bids to re-do the process to ensure fairness,” Davis said. Davis said he has not been notified of any substandard work done by Infrastructure Group.

Councilman Walter Larry Stewart of District 3 nominated to re-appoint Beverly Henderson to the Board of Assessments and Appeals. The re-appointment was unanimously approved. “She is well-qualified for the position,” Stewart said.

Fairfield County Council’s next meeting is at 6 p.m. July 6 at Fairfield County Government Complex.

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