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Vandals strike vacated R.L. Austin Elementary

A further complication over the dilemma of what to do with the vacated schools in Georgiana has arisen: R.L. Austin was vandalized last weekend, with an estimated $10,000 of uninsured damage done.

Allin Whittle, superintendent of buildings and grounds, reported at Thursday’s meeting a number of windows, trophy cases, office windows and doors had been broken at RLA, and a number of fire extinguishers had been sprayed on the floors and then thrown into ceilings and walls. Primary damage was in the office and the hallways.

Because there is only salvage value insurance on the empty building, the damage is not covered.

Whittle said it appeared several people were likely involved in the vandalism, which he suspected had occurred during the daytime. He added the Georgiana Police Department had been “great” about checking the campuses on a regular basis.

Hamilton expressed concern that “greater action” was not taken earlier to secure the vacated campus. “We can’t have properties destroyed as we can’t afford to fix them,” she said.

Dean said R.L. Austin was being used for storage of some cleaning supplies and toilet paper. Many of the cafeteria furnishings, which were not damaged in the break-in, are still located there, along with some old desks and chairs.

“I’m not happy with how we’ve handled the situation,” board member Joe Lisenby said, calling it a “lackadaisical” approach.

“I don’t know why we aren’t using these items or storing things in a more secure location – this doesn’t seem too secure,” Lisenby said.

Currently the titles to both schools are held by the State of Alabama. The Butler County Board of Education is moving closer to taking charge of the facilities.

According to interim superintendent Joseph Dean, the paperwork is “on the Governor’s desk” waiting to be signed to turn the titles over to the local BOE.

Dean announced at Thursday night’s work session once that step was taken, the system will entertain bids for the two properties.

Board vice-president Linda Hamilton reminded the board two proposals had been put forward by community groups in Georgiana – one to buy the R.L. Austin property, and one to lease it and provide insurance – and suggested they give these groups consideration in the process.

The two properties will be treated as separate entities when they go up for sale.