HAZARD—The old Dennis C. Wooton Elementary School building may be just a memory before the end of the year after the Perry County school board voted last week to have the building demolished instead of trying to sell it.
Melinda Joseph-Dezarn, with Ross-Tarrant Architects, presented the board with a cost opinion for the demolition project at the last regular board meeting in September. For the entire project, the cost would be around $207,000 for demolition and asbestos abatement; this would give the board a full seven acres of land to work with or sell once the building is gone.
Superintendent Jonathan Jett has been adamant in his stance to have the building demolished since discussions began earlier this year.
“The property is worth more without the school, for that community as a whole and to us as a board,” Jett said at a special called meeting Friday morning.
Since the school has been closed multiple break-ins have occurred in the building. Televisions and air conditioners have been taken, and two new $20,000 copiers being stored in the building that were taken from Big Creek Elementary after the school was closed were destroyed by vandals. Jody Maggard, the district’s finance officer, said because of this and the fact that the building is abandoned, the district’s insurance company is wanting to pull coverage on the building.
“They are wanting to relinquish their responsibilities to cover that building simply because it’s empty now and they said they’re not in the practice of insuring empty school buildings,” Maggard said.
Board Chairman John Combs said the district has done what it can to keep trespassers out of the building short of posting a guard at the building.
“We put two big deadbolts on the doors over there and they pried open the windows and got in,” Combs said.
Jett said it is for this reason that the board needs to move as quickly as possible to begin the process to have the school demolished.
“People are going to continue to go in that building, people are going to continue to deface it, steal things,” he said.
Jett added that the longer the building remains in the community and continues to be vandalized the more it becomes an eyesore.
Joseph-Dezarn explained that it would take around three or four months for the actual demolition to take place because of the amount of paperwork and approvals from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE).
“We, also, could probably ask KDE if we can try to do all of the approvals at one time to shorten the timeframe,” she said.
The board voted unanimously to demolish the building and to begin the process as soon as possible.
In other business, the board also voted to approve a bid for an architect for new construction projects, which include the two new grade schools the district is planning to build in the new few years. The board voted unanimously to accept the bid from Ross-Tarrant Architects.