County approves Cullasaja’s Old Salem Church restoration amendment

Carolyn L. Higgins – Contributing Writer

With more than a “little help” from friends, family, neighbors, volunteers, Macon County Board of Commissioners, and professional contractors, one more historic site has been resuscitated. Cullasaja Community Association (CCA) has one final round of construction to complete its restoration of the Salem Methodist Church on River Road in Franklin. Built in 1875 and designated by the National Park Service as the second oldest existing church building in Macon County (Old Salem Church), it will soon become the lifeblood of the community as it was during the 1970s. When it is completed, it will be ready to fulfill the purpose CCA agreed to in accepting the original $40,950 from the board’s fund balance – to provide, in part, public recreation.

The second budget amendment presented to commissioners on May 8, for vote by Commissioner Ronnie Beale was estimated at approximately $10,000.

“These folks have done an excellent job with the money from the Macon County citizens to restore this historic building,” said Beale. “It’s been a great community project. They’ve watched every dollar. They do have a little money left and they’d like . . . to be able to upgrade the bathroom and kitchen and underpin the building.” 

Commissioner Paul Higdon noted the document provided by the finance officer was actually for $11,621.60. “Would the board want me to approve that full balance and have me make the change to this agreement?” said Higdon. “They had some money left over from a construction project that they had had approved by this board.”

“I reserve to change my amendment,” said Beale. “It will take all that and more to finish up the building. If you have a chance gentlemen, please go by and see what this community has done with this building, and I think you’ll be much impressed.”   

  After clarifying the change in scope utilizing remaining funds from the initial $40,950, the board approved the continued restoration by unanimous vote. This was still in line with the initial wording “not to exceed $40,950.”

 Historical recognition and timeline

The recent amendment showed continued recognition of the value and goodwill this project bestows on the community. Beale noted the significance prior to the 2017 board vote. “These buildings are worth saving,” said Beale. After commending CCA’s tremendous efforts, he noted, “it has come to the point where they’ve got to have some help . . . . There is a void in the community as there is no place for the club to meet.”  He also emphasized Old Salem’s historical designation. 

Under the original “Agreement to Provide Recreational Opportunity,” dated Feb. 14, 2017, between the County and CCA, CCA agreed that the Old Salem Church building would be used in part for public “recreation” opportunities for 10 years. The board approved an amendment in August 2017, revising the scope of work based on new items that needed attention. In that instance and the recent amendment approved on May 8, “sufficient funds remain[ed] in the original project budget to complete additional improvements.”  

The original agreement approved unanimously by the board took into consideration a total estimated at $58,250, with $12,300 in labor donations and $5,000 from the community club, leaving $40,950 from the county to complete the project. CCA was able to perform construction activities at the Old Salem Church in a timely manner based on a list that was provided and incorporated into the agreement. 


Work completed and community efforts

Construction activities that were completed per the agreement included: repair and replacement of damaged floor system; construction of ADA deck and ramp; repair and replacement of roof; and complete installation of electrical work. On an October 7, 2017 Facebook post, CCA thanked volunteers for removing the broken ramp and youth from surrounding churches who built the ADA handicap ramp. This was tremendous savings compared to the original estimate of $7,300.

Besides actively utilizing social media for communication and fundraising, CCA held bakes sales, yard sales, a barbeque and a letter writing campaign. Through these successful efforts, after shoring up the foundation, the electricity was reconnected, initial repairs were made to the bathrooms and the water was connected.  

Their perseverance and diligent labor resulted in two awards before year-end 2017 – the Community of Promise award and the Calico Cat award. The latter netted the proud Cullasaja community a cash award in addition to recognition at the Western NC Community Awards banquet as the community making the most improvements to their meeting building. They ranked first out of 48 communities.

The most important treasure could not be assigned a monetary value. A thankful group of 37 attended their first Thanksgiving dinner at the Old Salem Church Community Building since the restoration. A November 29, 2017 Facebook page captured the spirit: the “building was filled with happy voices, memories, good food and fellowship!” The CCA has found a way to work and play as it fulfills its vision to celebrate the new life of the building with meetings, gatherings, weddings and more.

As Beale stated in an earlier commendation for CCA, “the community came together to save the building . . . . Community is at the heart of our county.”

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853 Words

Photo:  Macon County News July 2016 [please get this]

My photos to come later this morning