A routine meet-and-greet erupted into tensions as attendees questioned potential uses of the old Salem Baptist Church building on Hill Road in Halls, now owned by Angelic Ministries.
At-large Knox County Commissioners Ed Brantley and Bob Thomas held a community gathering at EB’s Eats and Treats in Halls Oct. 18, just as week-long rumors that the downtown mission would use the building for a drug rehabilitation center or halfway house reached the boiling point. Brantley and Thomas brought Ray Jenkins, a member of the Angelic Ministries board of directors, to answer community questions.
Jenkins said the mission would not seek to rezone the property, which is currently zoned for agriculture, nor would it use the property for drug rehab, addiction services or a halfway house. He said the board has not yet decided what to do with the property, which it purchased for $300,000 in the wake of Halls Christian Church moving out.
“The timing of the opportunity to purchase the building, it all happened so fast. We’re not very good at public relations, and the mechanics of the purchase got ahead of the community outreach,” said Jenkins.
The gathered neighbors said they had received word that the building would be used as a treatment facility from credible sources, even citing Angelic Ministries co-founder Mike Frazier as their source. They said that use would put neighboring children in danger, lower property values, and even pose a threat to the graves of loved ones buried in the church cemetery.
Jenkins said he would encourage the Angelic Ministries executive director and board chair to meet with local church leaders about what services would best serve the Halls community if offered at the old Salem building. He said a community needs assessment will be conducted, including input sessions from the community. Angelic Ministries will also hold an open house at the building at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, and the community is invited to attend and give input.
“I want to know more,” said Thomas. “I’ve known Ray for a long time, and I don’t know him to be a liar. Let’s keep a level head about it. But it’s your neighborhood, and we want you to have the neighborhood that you want.”
“If anything goes to County Commission or MPC for rezoning, and you go down there like you are tonight, there’s no way it’s going to happen,” said Brantley. “That’s where your voice is really heard.”
Jenkins said anyone with questions or concerns can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-548-7456.