Board orders razing of school

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 16, 2015

Board orders razing of school

By John Howell
Batesville city officials on Wednesday ordered that the fire-ravaged Batesville Elementary School building be demolished immediately, citing structural damage that places it “in danger of immediate collapse,” assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell said.

“It just needs to be demolished immediately,” Mitchell said, “I’ve been told that there are people going in there.”

The order will allow the school district’s application for demolition to be expedited for approval through the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

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City Engineer Blake Mendrop attended the meeting. Batesville Code Administrator Pam Comer attended by telephone. Both agreed that the building is dangerous as long as it is left standing.
“This lets DEQ fast-track this as an emergency,” Mitchell said.

Seventeen classrooms, a cafeteria and offices were destroyed in the July 10/11 fire, little more than three weeks before school is scheduled to begin.

By Monday, South Panola officials had developed a contingency plan to accommodate displaced kindergarten students in other school-owned buildings and allow school to begin August 6 as scheduled.

Also on Monday, a team of fire investigators including officers of the Batesville Fire and Police Departments, the Panola County Sheriff’s Department, the State Fire Marshall and the office of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives examined the burned out building.

The fire was determined to have begun in classroom 105, according to a fire department spokesman.

Closer determination of the cause of the fire will be determined by insurance company investigators, he said.

Aldermen Eddie Nabors, Ted Stewart, Bill Dugger and Stan Harrson voted unanimously for the demolition order. Mayor Jerry Autrey presided. Alderman Teddy Morrow was out of town.

The order also waived the demolition permit fee, a fee that is based on a percentage of the cost of the demolition, Mitchell said.