FAIRFIELD COUNTY — Fairfield County Council discussed the county’s impending strategic plan, recreation options and the possibility of adopting an animal cruelty ordinance.
In light of the recent death of two horses that were turned over to the county, council and Fairfield County residents discussed possible changes to prevent similar scenarios.
“Sometimes things happen, and you have to correct them, so they don’t happen again,” said Councilman Billy Smith, District 7.
County Administrator Milton Pope said he is unable to find fault or negligence on the county’s behalf, but identified adjustments that could help prevent animal neglect.
These possible changes recommended for council’s consideration included educating horse owners, retaining a large animal veterinarian, securing and identifying other large animal rescue groups and considering the adoption of an animal cruelty ordinance.
“I like the idea of an animal cruelty law,” said Councilwoman Mary Lynn Kinley, District 6.
Kinley said the mistreatment of animals is troubling and hopefully something council could help to prevent.
“These animals cannot speak up, but some people don’t deserve to have animals,” Kinley said.
Councilman Dan Ruff, District 1, heartily espoused the idea of an animal cruelty ordinance upon learning the current system leaves Fairfield County liable for the expenses of emergency surgeries if an animal is willingly turned over to the county.
“I don’t disagree with you,” Pope said.
However, Pope cautioned that if an animal cruelty ordinance is ultimately adopted, it may not necessarily simplify the process of charging negligent pet owners.
“You have to build a case of animal neglect,” Pope said.
Councilman Marion Robinson, District 5, said he agreed with the possible areas of improvement, especially the idea of keeping specialized medical personnel available to the county.
“I think we definitely need to have an equine vet on call,” Robinson said.
Councilman Walter Larry Stewart, Distract 3, and Vice Chairman Kamau Marcharia, District 4, also agreed changes need to be considered.
Council voted to have administration look into an animal cruelty ordinance.
Recreation continues to be a topic of discussion among both council and Fairfield County residents.
Beth Jenkins, a resident of District 2 and one of three residents to speak against the current recreation plan, derided the county’s recreation plan and said she felt the public has not had the opportunity to be involved with the decision making.
“Please, let’s all be involved with the decision making,” Jenkins said.
Ruff and Smith agreed with the need to reassess Fairfield County’s recreation plan but both councilmen said there is an exception.
“I think we should move forward with the District 4 plan,” Smith said. “It’s the only plan that has been in the works for years and years.”
Ruff said he agreed. Marcharia said he was glad to hear the opinion of his fellow council members.
Later in the meeting Marcharia angrily dismissed criticisms regarding Fairfield County partially funding a Jenkinsville sidewalk project, which he felt were racially motivated. The sidewalk project had not been mentioned during the meeting.
Smith further clarified this belief in forward action for District 4 includes a new fire station, which is included with the recreation plan.
Fairfield Council Chair Carolyn Robinson said she initially voted against what would become the county’s recreation plan and said it was a bad idea from Day 1 to look at county recreation as a district issue.
David Gjertson, landscape architect and urban planner for T.Y. Lin International, described the process, which would lead to the creation of Fairfield County’s strategic plan should the contracting of T.Y. Lin be finalized.
The steps include setup, assessment, creating a community development action plan and an economic development action plan. Gjertson said the assessment would be thorough.
“We need to know everything that’s in the county,” Gjertson said.
Gjertson touted some of the qualities in Fairfield County’s favor, including location, natural resources, and the Town of Winnsboro. He said the creation of the strategic plan would involve at least a series of two meetings in three different locations, but added more meetings for public input could be scheduled in additional places if there is demand.
“The strategy is to reach out to the community in a very, very comprehensive way,” Gjertson said.
Stewart expressed concern that the strategic plan might be nothing more than a series of nice thoughts collected in a binder without means of practical implementation. He expressed a desire for periodic progress updates and reviews.
Gjertson addressed those concerns acknowledging clear communication and practical implementation are both priorities.
“Our plan is to have an implementable master plan,” Gjertson said.
Council passed an ordinance to reclassify property at 67 Rocky 1 Road in Winnsboro as a Rural Community District. Pope explained the property is intended to serve as a daycare.
Smith expressed a desire to ask more questions about the reclassification, but the chair said the first reading is intended to be by title only, and further discussion could be had at second reading.
Fairfield County Council’s next meeting is July 27, at 6 p.m. at Fairfield County Government Complex, and is scheduled to include a presentation for the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition.
Reach Ben Hohenstatt at 803-635-4016. Follow him on Twitter @WinnsboroHerald.