By Gary Lloyd
The city of Center Point is seeking to purchase the same church building that Solid Rock Church in Pinson has made an offer on.
The Center Point City Council on Thursday voted to enter into negotiations to purchase New Covenant Fellowship Church, a vacant building on Pinson Valley Parkway in unincorporated Jefferson County, said Center Point Mayor Tom Henderson.
Henderson said he would like the property, which includes softball fields, to become a community center and recreation center. Solid Rock Church pastor Larry Ragland said his congregation has outgrown the Old Rock School building in Pinson and that the New Covenant Fellowship building is a “perfect” fit for the church, as well as a future daycare and private Christian school.
“We’re at the last minute, and here we are, and we were the only offer on the table,” Ragland said. “We were hoping that we were going to just be able to get the building and at the last minute Center Point has made an offer as well to get it. It’s a little disheartening. I understand that (Center Point) is going to do what they can do. I don’t fault them for that. I don’t think that they have no right to do that. Certainly, they have a right to do it. I’ve always been of the opinion that a church should remain a church.”
Ragland said his hope is that Center Point “reconsiders” purchasing the property and “steps aside.” Henderson said the city of Center Point has not yet made an offer on the building, though the city has had a lot of studies done on the property. Henderson said Center Point has been “seriously” looking at the property for four or five months, and that the city’s timing of voting to enter into negotiations coinciding with the city of Pinson and Solid Rock Church working out a contract is a coincidence.
“It has nothing to do with competing with them,” Henderson said. “We have to look at what’s best for the city of Center Point and what helps us move forward.”
Should Center Point acquire the property, Solid Rock Church’s contract with the city of Pinson, which includes the city purchasing the Old Rock School and nearby Triangle Park for $875,000, “essentially would melt away,” said Pinson Mayor Hoyt Sanders.
Sanders said the city of Pinson acquiring the Old Rock School is contingent upon Solid Rock Church purchasing New Covenant Fellowship
“The contract, as written, would not be enforced because of that contingency,” Sanders said.
Ragland said Solid Rock Church working out a contract with the city of Pinson was a “win-win situation,” since the facility has historical significance in Pinson and that “God has been so good to us” in the building. He said should Center Point acquire the New Covenant property, then Solid Rock Church would remain at the Old Rock School building, a site the church has outgrown. The church averages 350 to 400 people each Sunday and would probably have to offer three services and begin renovating the facility to accommodate everyone for Sunday school classes.
“We’re not going to be a church without a building,” Ragland said. “So not only is Center Point going to keep us from getting this church, if they get it, they’re also going to keep the citizens of Pinson from being able to have the Rock School.”
The total purchase price of the Old Rock School is $325,000 less than the original asking price of $1.2 million and $15,000 more than Solid Rock Church originally paid for the building and Triangle Park in 2004.
According to www.solidrockchurch.com, parts of the Old Rock School date back to 1921. The school building was closed down in 1998 and was scheduled to be torn down. The website says that Pinson residents saved the building from demolition and in 2003 Solid Rock Church leased the property. The church’s first service in the building was Sept. 26, 2004.
The Pinson City Council next meets Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Pinson City Hall. The next Center Point City Council meeting is next Thursday.
Contact Gary Lloyd at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.