FOMZI Deal Gets Final OK

WINNSBORO – After months of delay while the Friends of Mt. Zion Institute (FOMZI) sought high and low for adequate and affordable property and liability insurance, Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to OK the final reading of an ordinance transferring the Mt. Zion Institute and its grounds at 250 N. Walnut St. to FOMZI.

According to the agreement, FOMZI will pay the Town $5 for Mt. Zion and will be obligated to rehabilitate and develop the property. FOMZI will have 18 months from closing to stabilize the old school building in order to bring it in line with the Town’s Dangerous Building Code. FOMZI will also have 30 months in which to hire a contractor/developer for historic rehabilitation of the buildings on the site or the Town will bring out the wrecking ball.

The contract between the Town and FOMZI had been in limbo for months while Vickie Dodds, FOMZI Chairwoman, worked to acquire insurance for the property. Dodds said that two weeks ago she reigned in her global search and found something close to home, taking out a standard liability policy and a $150,000 property insurance policy with Insurance of Fairfield. The property insurance policy, Dodds said after Tuesday’s meeting, is based solely on the cash value of the buildings – not the replacement value. In the event of a calamity, the policy would only cover the cleanup of the property, she said. The total premium for both policies is $2,840 a year, Dodds said.

With deadlines now before her, Dodds said the first order of business would be repairing the roof on the school. That will get started next week, she said. In addition, FOMZI will begin cleanup of the property around the historic buildings.

In other local rehabilitation efforts, Council provided a letter of support to Steven J. Boone, president of Buckeye Community Hope Foundation of Columbus, Ohio. Buckeye, a little more than a year ago, purchased Deerwood Apartments at 647 Highway 321 Bypass. Boone said his not-for-profit foundation is seeking Affordable Housing tax credits from the state to renovate the apartments. Total development costs, Boone told Council, were around $6.6 million, at between $50,000 and $55,000 per unit.

Deerwood is around 18 years old, Boone said, and among other things is in need of a new community building. Boone said his foundation also has a social services division, specializing in credit counseling and job training.

Hearing about FOMZI’s efforts to rehabilitate Mt. Zion, Boone threw his support behind Dodds and the project. Boone said his foundation has grant writers and architects on staff, licensed to work in South Carolina, who would be willing to assist FOMZI at no charge.

Council also approved $113,000 in matching funds for a $1 million Community Block Development Grant for upgrades to the Town’s sewer system. The proposed project starts at the Town’s treatment plant near Dunn Street with lines running to the Town’s lagoon near the head of McCulley Creek.

“We’re enlarging those (sewer) lines to prevent any backup of those lines,” Town Manager Don Wood said, “which is what DHEC (the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control) has a problem with us about.”

The project would also include improvements at the wastewater treatment plant, Wood said, to help the plant process wastewater more effectively. Wood said the matching funds would come out of the Town’s Sewer Investment Fund, and added that there were no assurances the Town would receive the grant.

Looking ahead to Council’s next meeting on March 18, Councilman Jackie Wilkes (District 4) asked that the Town’s proposed code enforcement officer be put on the agenda for consideration for hire. Wilkes also said he had received complaints from members of his district regarding roosters inside the Town limits crowing in the middle of the night. Wilkes said that while the matter may simply fall under a disturbing the peace ordinance, Council may want to address zoning regarding chickens, roosters or other animals inside the Town limits.

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