FOMZI Faces Choices, Timeline

WINNSBORO – The Town of Winnsboro made public last week the official agreement between the Town and the Friends of Mt. Zion Institute (FOMZI), an agreement that places the long-debated property at Mt. Zion and the future of the buildings there squarely in the hands of the citizens’ group. The agreement puts some time constraints on FOMZI, with several benchmarks to be met to stave off the wrecking ball.

“We felt (the Town) was generous with their time frame,” Vicki Dodds, FOMZI Chairwoman, said. “We’re good with the agreement.”

According to the agreement, which was signed on Nov. 27, Town Council still has to pass an ordinance authorizing the sale of the property (for a sum of $5). Within 30 days of the transfer of the property, FOMZI’s first benchmark – insuring the property – comes due.

“We’re on top of that,” Dodds said. “It is expensive, but not as expensive as I had feared.”

FOMZI will have 18 months from the time of the transfer to stabilize the buildings on the property in order to meet the Town’s Dangerous Building Code (Section 151.01). Dodds said the task was “doable,” as the Code pertains mainly to safety and appearance. It will mean, however, choosing which of the four buildings on the property – the Mt. Zion School, the auditorium and gymnasium, the cafeteria and the Teacherage – to focus their effort on.

“We’re just focusing on the Mt. Zion School – the classroom building – and the auditorium and gymnasium,” Dodds said. “We will talk to others about the Teacherage down the road.”

The cafeteria, Dodds said, presents the biggest challenge because of the amount of asbestos inside.

“That’s where most of the asbestos (out of all the buildings) is,” she said. “It’s in the floor tiles, the ceiling tiles. It’s the disposal that’s costly. If we could clean it up and use it, that’s up in the air.”

FOMZI’s final benchmark is 30 months off from the date of purchase, when they must hire a contractor for historic rehabilitation or begin demolishing buildings.

“Just because we’ve got it does not mean it’s a done deal,” Dodds said. “There’s still a lot of work ahead, but we’ll keep chipping away at it over the 30-month period.”

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