Commissioners demur on public money for church project

A proposal before the Fayette County Commission to have the county assist the circa 1825 Hopeful Primitive Baptist Church on Ga. Highway 92 with the installation of a water meter and a sidewalk to the historic cemetery did not pass muster at the Aug. 14 meeting. But a press release issued Aug. 18 had commissioners asking the public to donate to the effort to restore and preserve the historic church.

The historic church at the corner of Hwy. 92 and New Hope Road is among the oldest structures in Fayette County. It is also the burial site of many who died nearly 200 years ago.

At issue with the proposed intergovernmental agreement between the county and the Hopeful Community Club was a part of the agreement that would have the county pay to have a water meter installed for a drinking fountain and irrigation and the installation of a segment of sidewalk.

Commissioners reported that a meeting with the Hopeful Community Club, located across New Hope Road from the church, resulted in the club declining to sell the property or enter into a long-term lease.

Hopeful Primitive Baptist Church representative Dean Breest toward the end of the discussion concluded that commissioners did not appear to want to proceed with the request, and ended his statement by thanking commissioners for their consideration.

No further action from the commission was indicated.

The situation changed somewhat on Aug. 18 when commissioners in a press release requested that all citizens consider making a donation to the effort to restore and preserve the Hopeful Primitive Baptist Church.

All five commissioners have made a personal donation to “Hopeful 1825 Restoration Fund,” according to the press release.

“That church building and the adjoining cemetery are historical treasures,” said Commissioner David Barlow.

The board supports the non-profit Hopeful Community Club, who now holds the deed to the church site, and it is in complete agreement both on the value of Hopeful’s contribution to our county’s rich history and on the importance of preserving it for future generations.

“We are getting out the word that we each personally support the 501(c)(3) nonprofit’s work and we implore everyone to pitch-in to preserve this remaining piece of our county’s history,” said Commissioner Allan McCarty.

Families, school groups, churches, scout groups and others who want to help raise funds for this restoration project can call 770-719-0438.

Individuals wanting to make a tax-deductible contribution can send a check to Hopeful Community Club, c/o J. Mathis, 204 New Hope Circle, Fayetteville, GA 30214. Make sure to write “Hopeful 1825 Restoration Fund” on the memo line of the check.

During the discussion, Commissioner Steve Brown said he would be okay with the county paying the cost of the water meter and sidewalk, noting, “This is a chance to preserve the property. I’d hate to lose one of the few remaining structures of that era.”

Brown said Hopeful was once “the” meeting place for farmers and settlers, adding that the church served as more than a place for religious services.

Commissioner Chuck Oddo said the decision could be one of “heart or head.”

Oddo, along with Commissioner Randy Ognio, said he would donate to the cause but could not support spending county money for the water meter and sidewalk.

Ognio said he did not agree with using taxpayers money since the county did not own the property.

Commissioner Allen McCarty in his comments questioned wether helping one nonprofit might lead to a request of help from others.

And Commissioner David Barlow said he did not agree with using public funds for the proposed project.

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