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Taxpayer questions lights left on at empty school

9:33 PM, May 17, 2012   |    comments
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Outdoor security lights burn during the day at an empty school.

CHAMBLEE, Ga - Taxpayer dollars are burning to pay for lights at a Dekalb County school that's been closed for six years.

A viewer contacted 11Alive's waste line to point out that lights are burning, at taxpayer expense, at the old Chamblee Middle School that closed in 2006.

The school district insists it's a matter of security.

11Alive visited the school on Chamblee Dunwoody Road to find outdoor lights burning in the middle of the day. Most of the lights around the outside of the building were off, but at least a half-dozen lights burned away in broad daylight.

"You still have to keep them burning," said school spokesperson Walter Woods. "You can't go in and have a crew that goes by every day. You have to keep minimal lights on to insure safety and protection."

Woods said minimal utilities are kept running at any vacant building for its protection. He compared it to a homeowner leaving the lights on to keep criminals away.

"We don't want to pay high utility bills like you don't want to pay them," said Woods.

Woods said air conditioning and heat are supplied to vacant school buildings to prevent mold and deterioration.

11Alive reporter Jerry Carnes asked why outdoor lights used for security weren't kept on a timer so that they didn't burn during the day when the building is already illuminated by the sun.

"We do every effort to make sure we keep those buildings safe," Woods answered. "We're talking about a very minimal cost to the district. The cost would be much more if the asset went bad or was vandalized."

Woods said the district is still trying to figure out what to do with the old building.

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