Hope Mills News

Hope Mills Creative Arts Council to host meet and greet event

14 arts councilThe Hope Mills Creative Arts Council will hold a meet and greet on Saturday, Feb. 8, from noon until 2 p.m., at Marci’s Cakes and Bakes at 5474 Trade Street in downtown Hope Mills.

Elizabeth Blevins, executive director of the council, said the purpose of the meeting is to try and grow the organization’s membership and to reach out to artists of every genre possible to involve them in the council’s projects.

The goal of the event is also to connect with possible volunteers and contributors who can help the council jump start its efforts to share art throughout the Hope Mills community.

The group will soon be holding a photography workshop, scheduled to run from February through May, for teenagers. The goal is to hold other teaching workshops in different fields of art.

Blevins said the council has created a dozen different committees dealing with an assortment of planned projects but needs more people on board to make them happen.
“We are trying to increase the visibility of Hope Mills as a destination,’’ Blevins said, “not only by incorporating art into the landscape as often as possible, but by providing opportunities for the community and visitors to participate in art in some form or another: concert performances, theater, art workshops, art shows.’’

Blevins said art is somewhat of a foreign ground for Hope Mills and the council is testing the waters to see what really resonates with the local population and what types of art they’d like to see more of.

She said the group would like to explore things like poetry slams, dance, basic writing workshops, anything and everything they could possibly create and introduce art to the community.

“That’s another reason for the meet and greet,’’ she said. “You don’t have to be an artist or interested in volunteering. If you want to come in and talk to us, I would really love to see this happen in the Hope Mills community.’’

One topic the council has been discussing is the creation of a Hope Mills choir. “We’d like to have our own group of musicians that would come and perform at various events,’’ Blevins said. “Maybe just as background music, ambience.’’

Blevins said one reason the group needs more volunteers is it wants the council to establish a visible presence in town parades.

“We’ll need volunteers to be in the parade as part of the float, create the float and the costumes,’’ she said. “We are hoping to connect with art lovers, art enthusiasts, volunteers. Anyone that has an idea is welcome to talk to us. We want to share with them the ideas we have put on the table and the goals we’ve set for this year, hopefully get them excited about it and be a part of it.’’

Blevins said the group has had a pretty good response from local artists so far, but added the ones they have connected with to this point are all non-Hope Mills residents.
“That is something we are hoping to change,’’ she said. While the group is open to all artists from Cumberland County, they especially want to promote those with a direct Hope Mills connection.

“If you’re an artist from any genre, we want to talk with you,’’ Blevins said. “We would be very interested in doing artist showcases where we secure a venue for artists and put their work on display.’’

Blevins stressed the council is not limited to promoting any one genre of art. “We’re always open to artists, musicians, actors, anyone from any area in Cumberland County,’’ she said.

The council has discussed big projects like murals in public areas around town, but for now those are a bit too expensive to pursue. “Because we are working on nonprofit status and are a startup, we don’t have that kind of money right now,’’ Blevins said.

They are applying for grant money, and if that comes through, they will hopefully be able to get aggressive on installing the town’s first mural sometime in the near future.
If anyone has questions about the council’s goals or the meet and greet, the email address is hopemillscac@gmail.com.

Commissioner Marley: Parish House is life safety issue

17 Parish House doorFew people are more qualified than Hope Mills commissioner Bryan Marley to speak on the situation involving the future of the town’s Parish House.

In addition to being one of the newest members of the Board of Commissioners, Marley has dedicated his life to the job of firefighter, going back to 1991 when he joined the Pearce’s Mill fire department as a junior firefighter.
From there, he moved on to jobs with the Hope Mills fire department and Cumberland County Emergency Services.

Today, he works in Hoke County as emergency management director and fire marshall.

Marley was one of three commissioners who recently voted to accept an offer from a demolition firm to raze the Parish House and free up the property for other pursuits he considers more viable for the town
to pursue.

His reasons for removing the Parish House, which although it is located in the Hope Mills historic district is not specifically listed in the National Registry of Historic Places as some claim, are rooted in fact, not politics.
“In my opinion, the building is structurally unsafe,’’ Marley said. “It’s a life safety issue.’’

Marley’s reasons to get rid of the Parish House go beyond the problems with the structure. He’s read all the reports that have been done by town staff and by people hired by the town to examine the structure.
“There are reports of mold growing in the building,’’ he said. “That’s a respiratory hazard.’’

The reports also indicate the structure is in danger of collapse.

While he doesn’t think there’s an immediate threat to the town or its people, should the building fall or burn on its own, he called it an eyesore that does nothing to improve the aesthetics of the area where it’s located.
To those who consider the building historic, Marley shares his personal experience as a resident of Hope Mills since his youth. “I’ve never heard of anybody talk about the historic Parish House,’’ he said. “I don’t see the great historical value there.’’

But the price tag for making it usable is high, and Marley thinks the town has more critical projects that need town money than a building with questionable history.

“We’ve got a new police and fire complex that we are trying to get off the ground,’’ he said. “We are looking at that being a $16.5 million project.’’

There’s also a need to use the land where the Parish House is located to help with the parking situation downtown, especially for events at Hope Mills Lake and the long-planned Heritage Park.

Something else Marley said people need to consider is the figures that have been quoted on the restoration of the Parish House are superficial, and will likely go higher should workers get inside the building and look for other problems.
“If they find asbestos or lead paint, they’ve got to mitigate that,’’ he said. “Once you get into a project like that, the price goes up.’’

Marley wouldn’t be surprised if the final number for bringing the Parish House back to life soared closer to $ 1million. “That’s a million dollars the town is taking out of the general fund,’’ he said. “They have to put that money back eventually.’’

The only way to do that, Marley fears, is to increase taxes, and that’s something no elected official wants to discuss. “That conversation hasn’t come up,’’ he said, “but how are you going to recoup that money and be able to carry on the same level of service to the citizens that we are doing now?’’

Marley stressed that he is not against preserving town history, adding that he’s fully committed to saving the Christ Episcopal Church building adjacent to the Parish House. He thinks the town can save the money it would spend on the Parish House renovation and use a smaller portion of it to complete repairs on the church, which is in far better condition.

He thinks it’s a doable option to finish work on the proposed town museum and the church and have both ready for the town’s citizens to use by summer.

“I’m not against town history or preservation,’’ he said. “We’ve just got to think common sense.’’

Marley thinks the negativity about the history of the Parish House has gotten out of hand. He’d like to see people discuss the matter like adults. “I agree it’s an old building,’’ Marley said. “We just can’t sit here and continue to go like we’re going. It’s never going to get anything accomplished.’’

He said that includes efforts some would like the town to pursue with Preservation North Carolina, which would reportedly restore the Parish House without costing the town valuable taxpayer money.

But Marley doesn’t think the entire story is being told. “They take your building and property and market it for you,’’ he said. “They find private investors or companies to come in and they purchase your property.’’

Once that’s done, Marley said the town no longer has direct control over the building or the property. Marley doesn’t want to surrender town use of a piece of premium property in the downtown area.
“All the citizens I’ve talked to, the greater majority if they even know about the Parish House do not care and want to see it gone,’’ Marley said.

“I’m trying to put the dollar figures out there and let people know. That’s my point. If you’re going to say one side of the story, say both sides of the story.’’

Traditional 55+ Valentine’s Day luncheon scheduled

15 valentinesA Hope Mills tradition, the annual 55+ Valentine’s Day luncheon, will be held Friday, Feb. 14, in the community room at the Hope Mills Recreation Center.

The time will be from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. and the cost is $8 per person.

All those interested in attending need to come to the front desk at the Hope Mills Recreation Center during regular business hours to sign up. This year’s event will be limited to 100 participants.

“It’s an opportunity to come celebrate the holiday with music and a fully catered meal,’’ said Kasey Ivey of the Recreation and Parks department. Ivey said there is not a designated cutoff date for signing up for the luncheon, but those planning to attend are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible to avoid not being able to attend.

The registration fee covers the meal, which will include two main dishes, two sides, rolls, desserts and drinks.

The music will be provided by a disc jockey.
This year’s event will feature a new catering service, Ivey said. After years of using Fred Chason’s Grandsons Buffet, which Ivey said has been wonderful, the Valentine’s Day luncheon will be changing to A Catered Affair by Chef Glenn and Company. Chef Glenn also operates The Diner in the former Becky’s Cafe, as well as two popular food trucks.

Ivey said Chef Glenn has done several events for the town, including an event held after the swearing in of the new Board of Commissioners last December. Chef Glenn has also catered the Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Ivey said the new arrangement with Chef Glenn will include a carving station where people will be served as they go through the line instead of the self-service format from past Valentine’s Day luncheons.
“I hope they will enjoy that,’’ Ivey said.

If anyone has questions about this year’s 55+ Valentine’s Day Luncheon they can call the main number at the Hope Mills Recreation Center, 910-426-4109.

Fifth Citizens Academy begins in February

16 town hall For the fifth consecutive year, the town of Hope Mills is preparing to conduct its annual Citizens  Academy program. Designed to teach town citizens the basics of local government and administration, it was created by current town manager Melissa Adams.

This year’s sessions will begin on Tuesday, Feb. 11, and continue for eight consecutive weeks, with the final session scheduled for Thursday, March 17. That’s the only session that won’t be on a Tuesday and was necessary to mesh with the fire department’s schedule.

After the opening session, which will introduce the participants to all the department heads from the town, each session will deal with a specific area of town administration or government. The initial session will include an explanation of the town’s council-manager form of government and the roles of the members of the Board of Commissioners.

The departments involved include police, fire, parks and recreation, planning and zoning inspection, infrastructure and public works, finance and budgeting, stormwater and town hall administration.

Most of the classes are held at the department being studied that week, with hands-on opportunities to work with some of the equipment like the police and fire departments use, among others.

In the session on town finances, each participant will get a chance to craft a budget for the town.

All those interested in taking part need to complete the online registration form at www.townofhopemills.com and email it to town clerk Jane Starling at jstarling@townofhopemills.com. It can also be faxed to 910-424-4902. The program is limited to a maximum of 15 people to allow more individual attention and to make touring the various locations where the class is held easier.

The usual cutoff for applications is the Friday before the first class, which this year will fall on Feb. 7.

A graduation ceremony for all participants is scheduled on Thursday, April 2, at a meeting of the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners. Each member of the class will receive a plaque from the town for completing the course.
If you have questions about the program, call Starling during regular business hours at 910-426-4113.

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.’’

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