FOMZI Makes Case for Mt. Zion

WINNSBORO – Board members from the Friends of Mt. Zion Institute (FOMZI) spent more than an hour in executive session at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting, trying to stave off the wrecking ball that lurks behind their contractual deadline.

That deadline – to stabilize the buildings on the property to meet Winnsboro’s Dangerous Building Code – expired on Sept. 4, and until Tuesday night Council had not heard from FOMZI all summer long. Indeed, Winnsboro Mayor Roger Gaddy said after Council’s Sept. 1 meeting that the Town had seen little activity at the site since faux windows were installed on the front of the school building and auditorium last May.

The backs of the buildings, however, have received much less TLC, and Gaddy said last week that might keep them from meeting code.

And yet, FOMZI board members did not appear dejected as they exited Town Hall Tuesday night.

“They encouraged us to save it,” FOMZI board member Don Laird said. “They want us to move forward.”

Vicki Dodds, FOMZI Chairwoman, said after the meeting that while the backs of the buildings had not had the same faux windows installed as on the fronts, it was not without reason. Rear windows were left open, she said, to allow the interiors to properly dry in, she said. Additional faux windows were planned, she said, in future stages.

Dodds also retained her optimism for the project after the hour-plus session with Council.

“They didn’t tell us to stop all work,” Dodds said. “The buildings still have to be inspected.”

Council took no action on the matter Tuesday night. Gaddy said after the meeting that the Town will inspect the buildings in the coming weeks, after which Council will meet with FOMZI again to determine the future of the old Mt. Zion Institute school.

The Town transferred the property, located at 205 N. Walnut St., to FOMZI in March 2014. According to the agreement, FOMZI purchased the property and its four buildings (the Mt. Zion School, the auditorium and gymnasium, the cafeteria and the Teacherage) for $5, but with the caveat that the buildings had to be stabilized within 18 months to meet Winnsboro’s Dangerous Building Code or be torn down.

FOMZI’s 30-month benchmark, which comes around one year from now, calls for the group to hire a contractor or developer for the historic rehabilitation of the buildings.


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