Hope Mills News

Parish House: Real protest or contrarian exaggeration?

17 01 Parish House doorIt’s times like these that I deeply miss my late friend, former Hope Mills Mayor Eddie Dees.

As the debate continues to rage over the fate of the Parish House in Hope Mills, I so badly wish I could go for one of our regular rides in Eddie’s pickup and talk about local politics and the future of the town as we often used to do.
I respect his memory, and would never drag him into this debate without permission. So I made a phone call last week to a young lady I’ve known almost as long as I’ve called Fayetteville home, Eddie’s widow, Susan Faircloth Dees.
Susan gave her blessing to the words I’m about to write, before some of my harsher critics accuse me of desecrating Eddie’s name.

One thing I can tell you for sure about Eddie Dees is he was a man of common sense and practicality. He also loved Hope Mills and had a deep appreciation for its history.
That was what led him to write a book in 1991, Hope Mills Heritage, an illustrated history of his beloved hometown.

I’m proud to say I helped with the editing of the book, something he gratefully thanked me for in the book’s acknowledgements.

Of the 112 pages in the book, there are two devoted to the history of the Christ Episcopal Church. One paragraph on those pages deals with the Parish House, noting that in 1910, the bishop of the Diocese of Eastern Carolina instructed the Rev. Norvin C. Duncan to build a parish house to serve as rectory and community center.

For those who don’t know, a rectory is the house an Episcopal minister lives in. In other faiths it’s called the manse or parsonage.

Many of those who support saving the Parish House argue that it’s a historic building.

17 02 Eddie DeesLet’s clarify that. Technically, every building in the downtown historic district that’s on the National Registry of Historic Places is a historic building. That’s because of the geography of the district, not the actual age of the buildings or their role in the history of the town.

The original inventory of buildings in the Hope Mills historic district included a gas station and a vacant lot, which count as historic not because of real history tied to that location, but simply because of where they are on the map.
Reminds me of a sign I saw at a gift shop one time that read something like, “In 1829 on this spot, absolutely nothing happened.” The same is true of many so-called historic buildings in downtown Hope Mills.

But let’s get back to the Parish House. It’s been well documented that for whatever reason, the house has fallen into disrepair. How long that took to happen and who is to blame really aren’t issues. This is a building with a lot of age, and not a lot of real Hope Mills history, that’s in bad shape.

If you haven’t taken a close look at the front door of the Parish House, there is a CONDEMNED sign on it. Right next to it is a red sign with a big white X. That means it’s unoccupied and has been for some time.

I’ve seen official reports from town staff stating that it could cost in the vicinity of six figures of town money just to stabilize this building and make it safe for entry, not to mention what would be needed to make it serviceable.

And if it is restored, what would it be used for? The town is already working toward a permanent museum near Trade Street, which is the true heart of the town’s mill village history with its collection of old storefront shops and its proximity to the textile mill.

History is great, and where possible it should be preserved. But the elected leaders of this town have a finite budget to deal with, and they are called on to make tough choices.

One of those involves the town’s future. Right now, there’s a pressing need for a new headquarters for the town’s police and fire departments. Work is scheduled to begin shortly on that facility, which is going to be an expensive but much needed building.

It will benefit both the police and fire staff who will occupy it, and it will be an asset to the town for years to come.

I posted something on Facebook recently regarding this whole situation. This is what I wrote. “How soon we forget. Old and historic are different words with different meanings.’’

There’s another word I’d add to the mix. Sentimental. Just because a group of people have sentimental feelings for something doesn’t mean that it should be preserved at taxpayer expense.

I feel sentimental about a lot of things, like cars I’ve owned or homes I’ve lived in, but time passes, and when my life circumstances changed, I didn’t continue to invest my income in their upkeep, I moved forward to something new.

The elected leadership is doing that in the case of the Parish House. This was a tough decision I’m sure, but I respect the fact that they’ve researched it and in their honest opinion are doing the right thing for the town of Hope Mills and its citizens, who put them in office to make the wisest possible use of the tax dollars they are entrusted with spending for the benefit of the entire town.

If you really support Hope Mills history, give the town’s elected your support in finally getting Heritage Park up and running. It will celebrate the town’s mill heritage while adding a source of revenue with the amphitheater that is proposed to be included in the park.

So far, the goal of this new group of elected officials is moving forward from two years of negativity. Regardless of what the naysayers will tell you, the motto on the town sign is accurate. “A proud past, a bright future.’’

Hope Mills mourns Peggy Hall

16 Peggy Hall Friends and professional acquaintances of the late Peggy Hall mourned the death of the former Cumberland County Board of Education member and praised her as a person with deep concern for the students and teachers she worked to serve.

Hall, 78, died on Jan. 8. A career vocational education teacher with  30 years of experience, she made her first bid to run for the school board when her late husband McKinley “Mackey” Hall, himself a career educator, decided not to seek re-election to the board for health reasons.

Dr. Marvin Connelly, superintendent of the Cumberland County Schools, released a statement on the death of Mrs. Hall.

“Mrs. Peggy Hall was an extraordinary educator and a dedicated school board member who always put students first,’’ he said. “Her many contributions to Cumberland County Schools will never be forgotten. The field of education has lost a great advocate for children and public education. My thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones during this difficult time.’’

Hall was elected to the Board of Education in the November 2016 election to fill the District 6 seat on the board which covers schools in the Hope Mills area of Cumberland County where her late husband Mackey called home.
Peggy Hall stepped down from the board last June because of health and personal reasons.

Greg West, who currently serves as vice-chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Education, said Mrs. Hall brought 30 years of experience as a vocational education teacher to
the board.

While her late husband focused most of his energies as a board member in the areas of school facilities and athletics, West said Mrs. Hall placed an emphasis on the students in the classroom.

“She was always polite and respectful,’’ West said. “She and Mackey wanted what was best for Cumberland County. She was a great lady. They are together again.’’

Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner taught with Mrs. Hall on the faculty at Douglas Byrd High School years ago. The two continued their friendship through the years when Mrs. Hall married Mackey and they lived in a home on South Main Street in Hope Mills, across from the furniture business operated by Warner’s husband, Alex. Warner said her relationship with Mrs. Hall goes back 40 years, even before she met and married her husband Alex.

“I always had a lot of respect for her,’’ Mayor Warner said of Mrs. Hall. “She was always an advocate for children. I don’t know a harsh word that was ever spoken about her. People that worked with her liked her. She was good with parents and good with kids.’’

Hope Mills Board of Commissioners member Pat Edwards got to know Mrs. Hall through her friendship with Mackey Hall. “She was a very delightful person, very caring,’’ Edwards said. “She supported everything Mackey did. She was a beautiful person, inside and out.

“She loved Hope Mills and she loved the school system. She was proud to live here.’’

Edwards said both Mrs. Hall and her late husband Mackey were the kind of people who would do anything for you.

Carolyn Thompkins, another longtime friend of Mrs. Hall, also got to know her initially through her friendship with Mackey Hall.
“She was an amazing woman, an amazing teacher,’’ Thompkins said. “She was like a little bumblebee, all over doing everything, pleasing everybody. She was one of the people I put on a pedestal. She earned the right to be up there.’’
Thompkins said Mrs. Hall was especially articulate, and had the ability to speak to people of any station in life on their own level. “She could escalate up or down,’’ Thompkins said. “She was so empathic, so caring.

“She was just a shining star. She’s an asset to heaven and a loss to us.’’

Susan Dees said she and her late husband, former Hope Mills mayor Eddie Dees, would drive to Horry County in South Carolina with Mrs. Hall and her late husband Mackey to enjoy the oyster roasts there.

“She loved Mackey Hall and grew to love Hope Mills,’’ Dees said. “She enjoyed being on the school board. She had a passion for children and the schools.’’

Margaret Ledford, wife of the late Randy Ledford, longtime football and baseball coach at South View High School, knew Mrs. Hall through her relationship with Mackey Hall when he was assistant principal and athletic director at South View High School.

“She’d call me once in awhile and we’d talk on the phone,’’ Ledford said. “She was so easy to talk to, friendly and caring. She was a very sweet lady.’’
 

Youth photo workshop scheduled

16 studioEarlier this fall Sue Moody was looking at some pictures taken by children of her friends that were posted on Facebook when she came up with an idea.

While the pictures were good, Moody wondered if the youngsters might be able to benefit from some expertise provided by people trained in the art of photography.

She spoke with Elizabeth Blevins of the Hope Mills Creative Arts Council and worked with her to schedule a series of presentations for budding young photographers. The classes are scheduled to meet from February until May at The Studio on Trade Street at a cost of $10 per student.

There is a limit on class size so anyone interested needs to sign up as soon as possible by calling 910-853-4536 or emailing HopeMillscac@gmail.com.

Moody said response to the initial class sessions will dictate whether plans are made for other events in the future. She said there has been discussion of sessions for adults.

“We know there is a need in our community,’’ Moody said. “Other artists are affiliated with the Creative Arts Council. We just want an inventory to find out what the community wants. We hope people will register soon so we have everything in place and are prepared for them.’’

All classes for the sessions with students ages 12-18 will be from 6-8 p.m. Following are the instructors for the initial series of classes and the dates they will be teaching:

Cherri Stoute, Tuesday, Feb. 11 — Stoute owns The Studio on Trade Street. Stoute is a film school graduate who has worked in a variety of roles. She’ll study cameras and smartphone cameras with the students and discuss editing.

Elizabeth Blevins, Tuesday, March 10 — Blevins is a member of the N.C. Press Association and the U.S. Press Association. She’s been a staff member and contributing writer to four regional publications including Up & Coming Weekly. Her topics will be perspective and photography fads.

Michelle DeHetre, Tuesday, April 21 — For the last five years, DeHetre has worked as the operations manager at The Studio on Trade Street. Based out of Greensboro, DeHetre has a background in portrait photography. Her workshop will cover the topics of composition and improvising backdrops.

Bill McQueen, Tuesday, May 12 — McQueen has called Hope Mills home for 31 years. He is the owner of Response Marketing Group, which offers consulting services to large and small businesses around the country. His topic will be thinking outside the box and putting into practice the instruction students have received during the class.

Youth sports registration begins

17 01 Brower park sign One of the busiest times of the year is in progress for the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department as parents are signing up youngsters from the town and beyond for the various youth sports teams offered during the spring.
Registration began last week at the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department headquarters on Rockfish Road and will continue for the most part through the month of February.

Maxey Dove of the Parks and Recreation staff encouraged parents to sign up early and avoid the last-minute rush caused by folks who wait until the final days of February to get their children enrolled in the program.
“We get 70% of our registration the last two or three days,’’ Dove said. “Until we close the doors on that last day it’s hard to project how many teams we will have.’’

The sports offered in the spring include baseball, softball, indoor soccer and wrestling.

All registration is required in person at the recreation headquarters. Dove said the town is continuing to work on offering online registration and hopes to be able to offer that by the fall.

Any youngster who has never played in the Hope Mills recreation program before is required to provide a copy of a birth certificate and proof of residence, which can be done with a utility bill.
People outside of Hope Mills can sign their children up to play, but there is a difference in the fee charged. It’s $30 for Hope Mills residents and $40 for non-residents.

Times for registration are 8:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Baseball and softball are the most popular of the two spring sports, Dove said.

Categories for baseball include T-ball for age 5, junior pee wee age 6, coach-pitch ages 7-8, minor baseball ages 9-10, major ages 11-12 and Dixie boys ages 13-14.
Softball is the Darlings at ages 7-8, Angels at ages 9-10, Ponytails ages 11-12 and Belles ages 13-15.

Last season, four Hope Mills teams won state titles and advanced to regional competition in Dixie Youth play. A fifth team supported by the town won the state Lady Legion softball championship, with several of the players on that team former competitors in the Hope Mills youth sports program.

Soccer has an instructional level for ages 5-7 and individual teams for ages 7-12. Wrestling is divided both by weight and age from 6-12.

Dove said if there are specific questions about any sport or registration call during regular business hours at 910-426-4109.

Citizens announce preference for next stage of Heritage Park

15 master plan croppedThe citizens of Hope Mills have spoken on which direction they’d like the development of the Heritage Park master plan to take. Now, it’s just a matter of getting the final pieces in place and securing grant money to begin actual work on the project.

Lamarco Morrison, head of the Hope Mills Parks and Recreation Department, said there were no major surprises when citizens responded to a request for input on the master plan at a meeting held in mid-December.

As expected, some people expressed strong opinions on the fate of the Parish House, which has fallen into disrepair since being donated to the town. The Board of Commissioners was expected to continue discussion on the Parish House at its regular meeting last week, which was held prior to the writing of this article. (Editor's note: Since the writing of the article, the board voted to demolish the Parish House.)

All three of the proposed plans for Heritage Park depict the Parish House as still standing.

Morrison said he told the design team to show the Parish House on all the plans but not to include it in anything yet to be developed as action is still needed by the board on what will happen to it.
There were four areas of concern the citizen input focused on. They were park character, amenity needs, program needs and criteria for prioritization.

Historic and cultural preservation were tops in two of the four categories, earning 26% under park character and 24% under criteria for prioritization. Also a high priority was adventure at 25% under the program needs category.
Leading the way under amenity needs were nature trails at 24%.

The only other item that hit the 20% mark was sustainable at 21%  under the park character category.

Items that reached 15% or better were educational under park character at 16%, amphitheater at 15% under amenity needs and concerts at 17% under program needs.

The version of Heritage Park most people preferred keeps the main parking area near the intersection of Lakeview Road and Lakeshore Drive. It also allows for about 15 more parking spaces than either of the other two plans.
Called Concept C, Morrison said it has the least impact on the existing sewer line and takes advantage of the natural layout of the land.

“It preserved the most open space and took into account a lot of the site features we need to be aware of,’’ Morrison said.

Even though Concept C was preferred, Morrison said the town is still taking input from citizens. All three site plans are available on the Parks and Recreation Facebook page.
Anyone who would still like to comment on which plan they prefer is welcome to contact Morrison directly via email at lmorrison@townofhopemills.com.

Morrison said one of the big advantages of using Concept C is it keeps the parking area away from potentially flood-prone portions of the proposed park.

While some of the walking trails in the park would be able to survive occasionally being flooded, Morrison said it’s not good planning to put the parking area in a space that could be subject to frequent flooding.
Morrison said many of the favorable comments were in support of the trail system because it takes advantage of what is called pedestrian circulation.

The preferred plan will also allow the town to use a piece of property it already owns on South Main Street and install an overlook, Morrison said.

“That was a pleasing feature not only for the park, but for the people driving by,’’ he said.

The next big step will be to apply for a Park and Recreation Trust Fund.

"It’s a 50-50 match,’’ Morrison said. “You can get up to $500,000 but we’re probably going to go after $300,000 to do a phase one of Heritage Park.’’

Morrison has worked in other municipalities that received PARTF grants. If there are no further delays in the project, Morrison said Hope Mills could be awarded the grant as soon as August of this year, and work on phase one of Heritage Park could begin as late as the end of this year or sometime early in 2021.

“We are excited and ready to get phase one started, regardless of which way we go,’’ he said.

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