White envelopes are scattered on the floor inside the old principal’s office, and there are boxes full of football helmets in the hallway and odds and ends stored in the gymnasium. But Bibb County school officials hope someone will view the old Ballard-Hudson Middle School as a diamond in the rough and snatch it up at auction this week.
“I wish someone would buy these buildings,” Gary Donehoo, the school system’s maintenance coordinator, said while walking the hallways with a flashlight last week. “It’s a good bit to maintain.”
Since the facilities were aging or had low student enrollments, Bibb County school board members voted in 2002 to close seven schools, including Redding, Weir and Hunt Magnet elementary and the old Ballard-Hudson Middle School on Anthony Road.
Now, after years of sitting vacant, the school system is auctioning off the four buildings today and Tuesday.
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“With the economy like it is and the need for money, we would be remiss to sit on property,” board member Lynn Farmer said. “We know we don’t need it.”
The starting bid for the 80,482-square-foot Ballard-Hudson school, which is nestled between a new apartment complex and a new church, is $150,000. School officials are seeking minimum bids of $200,000 for Hunt Elementary at 990 Shurling Drive, $100,000 for Redding Elementary in Lizella, and $50,000 for the old Weir Elementary, which has been used in the past by law enforcement for training.
All four of the buildings have been vandalized, and thieves have stolen copper and other metal from the sites. Also, people have dumped furniture at Ballard-Hudson for school system workers to haul off. All of it is time-consuming and costs the system money to watch over.
It’s a rare move for the school system, and officials hope the auction draws interest.
“We have had several people and organizations interested in purchasing the properties in the past, and the surplus allows us to move toward a sale,” said Chris Floore, a system spokesman. “The community has the opportunity to use these facilities in a productive way since there is no longer an educational need for them. We surveyed districts and other government agencies in Georgia and found (auctions) to be a widely preferred method of dispossessing governmental buildings.”
Revenue from the auction would go into the school system’s general budget.
Floore said to his knowledge, the system hasn’t conducted a public auction to sell surplus schools before.
Bruce McLaughlin, a maintenance worker for the school system, sat out front of the red brick Hunt Elementary Wednesday waiting to let in anyone who wanted to view the building.
That morning, there wasn’t a lot of activity.
“It could go to a church, ... actually. There’s a lot of potential here,” he said. “I’d love to see someone work with it.”
The school, with bars on its windows, has three wings and sits on 10 acres.
All properties are being sold as is and require a 15 percent deposit in cash or certified funds by the top bidder the day of the auction.
The school system still owns other schools that are vacant, such as King Elementary on Shurling Drive, which is also listed as surplus but is not for sale because the school system uses its parking lot for games at Thompson Stadium.
The old Miller school for girls on Montpelier Avenue and the Renaissance Academy building on Anthony Road are also vacant but not up for sale.
This fall, the school system will also have more vacant buildings when Burke Elementary on Second Street closes as well as Hamilton Elementary on Pio Nono Avenue, which Ingram-Pye students and teachers were using while their school was renovated.
The old Butler Early Childhood Center building on Earl Street will also be vacated.
Floore said there’s no plan on the immediate horizon to auction off those schools or declare them surplus.
Andrea Miles, who lives across the street from the old Ballard-Hudson Middle School and attended school there in the late 1970s, said it’d be nice to see that building used again.
“They could put a community center for youth there or something constructive,” said Miles, 46. “Some kids around here have nothing to do.”
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.