When given the opportunity to take part in restoration efforts at Fayette County’s oldest church, a majority of the Fayette County commissioners turned it down.
The Aug. 14 proposal, which centered around the county donating a water meter to Hopeful Primitive Baptist Church, which has never had running water, never even made it to a vote. Only Commission Chairman Steve Brown spoke favorably of the county making the donation. Commissioners Chuck Oddo, David Barlow, Randy Ognio and Allen McCarty each said they were uncomfortable with the government making such a donation to the church.
Some commissioners did publicly commit to making a personal financial contribution to the project, however, and the consensus of the commission was that it is a necessary undertaking, just not one that the county should underwrite.
“You get one chance to preserve these historic properties,” said Brown. “If we don’t do something very, very quickly, it will be gone.”
According to reports, county representatives approached Hopeful Community Club leaders to discuss purchasing the church property with intentions of turning it into a county park, but that idea was quickly rejected.
Constructed in 1825 and located at the corner of Hwy. 92 North and New Hope Road, Hopeful Primitive Baptist Church was built right around the same time as the historic Fayette County Courthouse, which is the oldest courthouse in Georgia. The church building has deteriorated over the years, and even the modern-looking vinyl siding is chipped and causing water damage to the original siding underneath.
The grounds of the church were until recent months overgrown in diseased trees and clusters of unruly shrubs and undergrowth. However, restoration efforts have seen the land cleared, old grave sites rediscovered and some reclamation of the original building structure.
There’s a lot more work to be done, and project volunteer Dean Breest says having running water on the property is a key component to moving forward with restoration and repurposing of the land and building.
When commissioners rejected the water meter donation proposal, Breest thanked them for their time and assured them the preservation group would find other ways to move the project forward.