Good news! The uncertainties of the past few months are behind us. The Town of Winnsboro has received the Mt. Zion property back from RedClay and wasted no time making improvements to the grounds. Within a day, Town crews were on the site with heavy equipment and manpower, removing extensive overgrowth that remained after our own volunteer work was suspended due to the negotiations. Bushes, roots, and vines came down and were hauled off. Grass was not only mowed but curbs and walks trimmed and herbicide applied to retard regrowth of the invasive vines. The result gives us a peek of what the property CAN look like in the future! Be sure to check out the video (linked on this page) showing our volunteers hard at work in January, followed by the Town crews’ massive effort just a week or so ago. The Town has also added Mt. Zion to its broad pest control program, and exterior traps have been set. We’ve all understood the concerns that neighbors have had and do believe that elimination of the foliage growth and implementation of the pest control will address at least some of those issues.
Thanks to these actions by the town, the first two points of our commitment are completed more quickly than we’d dared hope; and the next steps can begin as soon as FOMZI and the Town develop a solid understanding and plan. We’re encouraged by the positive dialog thus far and anticipate continued discussions to iron out our roles for the future. Such government-nonprofit partnerships can be structured any number of ways and no two are ever alike; the main thing is to leverage each partner’s resources toward the common goal, understand the differences in our roles , communicate and find the best ways to work together. We’ll be employing ongoing work sessions to establish the relationship and hope that more partners – nonprofit and/or governmental – will eventually play a part.
For now, know that positive things are happening and that the Mt. Zion campus looks better than it has in quite a while. Next up is to move on to structural concerns like roof and windows to dry in the buildings and pave the way to interior rehabilitation. The economy is improving, Blair School of Art is still verbally committed, other inquiries are coming in, and we continue to see the campus as part of both an economic and cultural revitalization for the community.
Our funds will take us into the next stretch of work and we’ll continue to seek private donations (tax-deductible!) as well as grants and sponsorships. We also welcome in-kind donations of time, construction or fund-raising expertise, and goods like exterior-grade plywood that can be used with the windows. The list of needs will grow as we go!
As ever, thank to you all who’ve kept the faith and interest going.
http://youtu.be/JY2iLCQhU6Q or see Home Page at top. The result:
Photo taken May 7, 2013, right after Council meeting. Do we believe in "signs"? We do now!
The year 2012 was busy for Friends of Mt. Zion, mostly behind the scenes. To recap:
January – Received encouraging pledge support and continued to work with RedClay Development as they utilized a time extension.
March –Tax attorney advises that FOMZI, with certain constraints, can use pledge funds for work at MZI and do it through RedClay without risking tax-exempt status. An economic impact study was sought from USC’s Moore School of Business, sponsored by FOMZI, RedClay, Blair School of Art and focused on the proposed plans for an art college located on the Mt. Zion campus.
Spring and Summer – Impact study is slow to come in and a second initiative regarding Blair and the country club property is beginning. FOMZI postpones calling in pledges until report is completed and more is known about the other plans. Dru Blair assures FOMZI that he remains committed to occupying MZI but that it could take 4-6 years to grow the school to that point and he’ll begin his presence in town with offices and some classes in renovated Congress Street spaces..
Fall – Blair/country club plans suspended. Town sought status report from RedClay. FOMZI again prepares to call in pledges to do specific work on buildings and grounds. Economic Impact Study and Discussion is received, confirming great potential for college, with increased employment and business opportunities in town.
November/December – Pledge honor letters went out. FOMZI appeared before Town Council with a proposal to them and to RedClay for starting work on campus: clean-up of grounds and building exterior, pest eradication and control, and repair of roof sufficient to prevent further water intrusion and damage. Both entities seem to be amenable to this and time is extended to RedClay.
JANUARY 2013 – Council announced that it will take the buildings back from RedClay, stating that they look forward to working with Friends of MZI on continuing the project. FOMZI invited the Mayor and Council Members to the first meeting of the year and informally discussed the project’s change from a private/non-profit endeavor to a public/non-profit one and what will be needed from the parties. The discussion was encouraging and will be on-going. While the finalities of the separation of the Town and developer take place, FOMZI is scheduling and taking bids on the outlined work to initially take place. We thank RedClay and James Maynard for their consistent efforts with Mt. Zion and recognize that we saw much that others did not see. Nonetheless, we are optimistic about the Town’s support and assistance and eagerly anticipate visible changes at Mt. Zion in the near future.
Our pledge donors have come through honorably and magnificently! We invite others to join them! Sincere thanks to the following donors:
Pledge Drive Donors Through 1/6/2013
Wildcat Donors (up to $500)
Vern & Pat Amick
John C. Buchanan III
Callie C. Bell
Barbara J. Douglas
Sam & Patsy Edenfield
John J. Fantry, Jr.
Carver Almand Farrar
Annie McLeod Jenkins
Jane McM. Litton
Mary Jane K. McDonald
Martha E. Meyer
H. G. & Hannah Phillips
Lucinda M. Shirley
Nelle McCants Smith
Jeanette Norman Starnes
Jimmy & Ivor Stephenson
Cathryn Cathcart Thomas
Joanne Watson Trotter
F. J. Weed
Travis M. Weldon
Nancy M. Williams
Tusitala Donors (up to $2500)
Vicki Dark Dodds
MZI Guardians (above $25,000)
THANK YOU ALL!
Thank you, members of the FOMZI Steering Committee and Board, for bringing the cause to public attention and garnering the support that perhaps held things together until the answer came along.
And thank you, MZI friends, for letting us represent you.