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Old Center school vandalized again


Randy Bowman stands in a vandalized room at the former Center Elementary School building. - Roger S. Lucas photo

The former Center Elementary School in Grand Coulee was broken into for the third time last week, with hundreds of dollars of damage done and questions about the building's future looming unanswered.

In addition to damage from the break-in on or about July 25, the building and grounds show windows and doors boarded up, many windows broken, and the grassy areas covered with weeds.

Police stated that some youth had broken through a plywood sheet covering a door and gone inside, throwing paint around the walls, ceiling and carpeted areas. Papers and other materials have been tossed about, and those responsible left excrement in two of the toilets.

The police report states that a fire extinguisher was missing, lights had been broken and a knife was stuck in one of the walls.

Randy Bowman, the district's maintenance foreman, said that the water is turned off to the building and that he had to bring water up from the district school to clean the toilets out.

Bowman estimated some $800 damage, not including repainting and cleaning the area.

From footprints in the scattered paint, police determined that kids were involved.

It was a repeat of a similar illegal entry a year ago.

Bowman said that his crew does a walkthrough once a week.

Those responsible entered through a back door that is secluded and difficult to see from the road. All of the second-story windows in the back of the building are broken, highlighting the difficulty of maintaining an unoccupied building.

The district purchased the building and adjacent property in October 2014 with the idea of reselling it.

It bought the buildings and extra grounds for $155,000 from Continental Land Company and invested another $10,000 to get the property appraised. That appraisal came back at $190,000.

One party who had shown some interest in purchasing the property walked away from it because of taxing problems, as the county had the property valued at $2.78 million. That assessment has since been revisited, with the Grant County Assessor's Office appraisal coming in at just over $88,000, according to now-retired district superintendent Dennis Carlson.

Until it can be sold, the district faces the problem of keeping the property up to community standards.

About the same time as the Center School break in, youth also hit the Grand Coulee Dam Middle School building. They didn't gain entry there, but damaged a door.

That school has been the target of vandals, even though some rooms are being used by community groups.

The school has been closed for two years, since the opening of the new K-12 school in Coulee Dam.

Bowman stated that the building is routinely cleaned and the lawns are being mowed. The school's gym and athletic fields are being used by the district.

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