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Well, no one ever said it was going to be easy. Several factors conspired to slow things down during late May, June and part of July, not the least of which was the impact of the current economic situation on the timeline that the Town, the McMaster family, and FOMZI itself had hoped for. In an effort to lessen that impact, a new plan is currently developing that may be the answer to many of the concerns inherent in the purely philanthropic means of rehabbing Mt. Zion. It's a little early to go into details, but we are pleased that it appears to be a truly united effort to reach the best and most timely solution for both funding and construction. Stay tuned ... we'll share more when we can!
Still with us? Good! It seems agonizingly slow, but the Mt. Zion plans ARE still moving along. The McMaster family and Town of Winnsboro continue to hammer out the details necessary to best structure their agreement on the campus property. Both naturally need safeguards and assurances in place, all of which can only serve to better protect the chances of success at Mt. Zion. It's not a "done deal", but so far, so good.
FOMZI continues as an advocacy group for the project. We've moved from a steering committee to naming an official board of directors and will soon elect our first term officers. Though not immediately involved with the ownership transfer or initial renovation details, we'll continue to monitor the process and report on any progress. Also in the works are some related plans or events that will allow the town and Mt. Zion supporters to participate in celebrating the long-awaited beginning of the rehabilitation. All we need to hear is "It's a go!"
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2009!
FOMZI enters the new year still awaiting finalization of what it appears will be an agreement for a conditional transfer of the Mt. Zion building campus from the town to a private patron, the McMaster family. This will facilitate the most expedient beginning of the stabilization and renovation process and ensure a definite period of time in which to move the process along and prevent the loss of the buildings. The Town is working with Mr. McMaster to make sure various historic protections are in place and that appropriate zoning and ordinance needs are met that will enable the vision of MZI as a continuing educational and cultural venue to be realized.
FOMZI itself is somewhat in a "holding pattern", or stand-by state, for the time being. As a non-profit, we cannot provide funds to a private entity and have suspended our requests for donations until we determine what, if any, part we'll be needed to play in the foreseeable future. At the least, we hope to continue building the structure of our organization and to support, promote and advance the interests of the whole campus and historic setting.
We'll continue to share developments in the project here.
Our sincere thanks go to the McMaster family and the Town of Winnsboro for their efforts to find a way to save Mt. Zion and return it to a meaningful place in the community.
Thanks, too, to you who've followed our story through this website and provided encouragement in so many ways. FOMZI is gratified that we were able to provide evidence of interest and support that played a large part in establishing the case against demolition!
WHAT'S NEW IN OCTOBER
October's been a busy and productive month for FOMZI! We applied for and received our non-profit Charter, making us a legal entity in our own right and able to enter agreements and contracts if the need arises. We continue to operate under the Mt. Zion Society's 501c3 for donation purposes but are drawing up By-Laws and beginning a board selection process that will lead to a fully functioning independent organization to serve the support needs of the Mt. Zion campus.
FOMZI continued its local support sign-up effort both in Winnsboro businesses and at the Rock Around the Clock festival, which was a fun event that brought us many signatures and words of encouragement.
Last, but most important, we prepared our official presentation for Town Council and appeared before them on October 7. To supplement print material provided to them a few days before the meeting, we narrated a Power Point presentation on the WHY, WHO, WHAT and HOW of our planned renovation and reuse of the Mt. Zion property. It appears to have been well received, and we are presently awaiting the final deliberation of Council and the working out of certain details related to an agreement. Things look quite positive but are not yet definite. Watch this spot for big, bold letters when we're able to make a definitive announcement!
WHAT'S NEW IN AUGUST/SEPTEMBER
August brought us the long-awaited engineering reports, which confirmed earlier assessments that the classroom building, auditorium and gymnasium are all well worth rehabbing for our purposes. The cafeteria, a later addition to the campus, will likely be razed, with the space providing additional parking.
We accomplished several other important things during these weeks. A door-to-door canvass of the residential neighborhood surrounding Mt. Zion was conducted. We gleaned many insights into concerns of nearby homeowners and can address many in our planning and structuring. The level of positive neighborhood support for this project delighted us, and we'll do everything we can to make the "new" MZI a welcome improvement to this lovely and historic area.
Another project completed in mid-August was the mailing of nearly 900 brochures to former students of Mt. Zion, starting with the Class of 1936, who inaugurated the then-new buildings. Many went to still local residents and more were sent all over the U.S. The response has been very good so far and FOMZI is enjoying the comments and good wishes we're receiving.
Presently we're waiting (again!) on cost estimates and recommendations from the architect we engaged as consultant to the project. Working plans already existed and we hope to have few significant changes necessary. FOMZI is using this time to develop our presentation to the Town for acquisition of the buildings or an agreement that will allow us to proceed. This will, of course, be the defining prelude to working out many details and issues that are dependent on their decision. Stay tuned.
WHAT'S NEW IN JULY
FOMZI is now three months into our work. Those weeks have gone by too fast but have been full of planning, learning and more planning and learning. We've sought out experts in various fields that could assist us in moving forward and found that most of what we're doing is right but that we may not have been tackling things in the right order! So, back at the drawing board, we've revised our to-do schedule. Time remains "of the essence", of course, but we believe we're now on a more realistic track and remain optimistic about our chances of success.
Engineering studies have been underway this month and we're awaiting the written results. Verbal comments by those poking and prodding through the buildings have been encouraging. This process and the wait for reports is more than a little nerve-wracking; but we know that, when they're in, we'll be more fully informed and knowledgeable during our decision making and the bidding and contract negotiation process.
Midlands Technical College appears to be firmly committed to a location in Mt. Zion if we are successful with our plans. Dru Blair, of Blair School of Art, is already in Winnsboro readying the Monticello portion of his school for opening and will be working with us on plans for the portion of Mt. Zion he hopes to occupy. Since we think this will be a phased project, we haven't begun talks with the several museum interests yet but will be pursuing those once we're on more solid ground with regards to acquiring the buildings.
We're increasing our publicity efforts, with a mass mailing in the final stages before send out. Our database contains more than 800 names, many of whom will no doubt be hearing about this effort for the first time. Additionally, we now have a promotional DVD, which we'll use in presentations before clubs and civic groups and as a donor appreciation gift as well. Unfortunately, we can't make it available for sale but hope to upload a brief version to a video site and link to it here on these pages.
Again, you can also follow our progress through our special reports in The Herald Independent (www.heraldindependent.com) and we'll make every effort to get weekly meeting recaps up and running. Meanwhile, let us hear from you ... every name and note of support is important!
[A JUNE UPDATE WAS LOST TO CYBERSPACE BY YOUR WEBSITE MANAGER. SORRY!]
WHAT'S NEW 5/27/2008
Talks with Midlands Tech continue to be positive. An engineering liaison has been assigned to us to assist us in meshing our renovation plans for the classroom building with their space and layout needs.
Additionally, Blair School of Art, currently located in Raleigh, NC, has expressed a strong desire to take part of the Mt. Zion building if we're successful in our rescue effort. This is a widely known commercial art school that draws both U. S. and international students and would fit well into our educational focus.
More, several museum interests have made overtures about locating specific collections at the Mt. Zion Campus. While all of this is still quite tentative in nature, FOMZI is encouraged by the show of interest and their positive view of our future.
Much remains to be done, from further engineering studies to plan development to raising funds and coming to agreements with town and county, but each week brings increased hope. Keep up with our progress here and through the Herald Independent newspaper in Winnsboro: