City Records Destroyed, Water Department Damaged in Ga. Arson

January 3, 2008

A building housing the water-sewer department in Lafayette, Ga., was heavily damaged and years worth of records were destroyed when teens broke in and set it on fire early on New Year’s Day, authorities said.

Glenn Allen, a spokesman for Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine, estimated $500,000 damage to the structure. He said all the records in the building were destroyed.

However, LaFayette City Manager Johnnie Arnold said the damage was limited to records such as work orders. He said water customer accounts are kept elsewhere, and none of them were lost.

Public Safety Director Tommy Freeman said the state’s damage estimate was “conservative” and that the one-story brick building, once used as an athletic field house behind the old high school, probably would have to be replaced.

The city recreation department stored equipment in the basement of the building, and that also was lost, Freeman said.

Two 15-year-old boys were arrested on charges of burglary, arson and criminal interference with government property, Freeman said. He said they were being held in a state juvenile detention center in Rome pending a hearing before a Walker County Juvenile Court judge.

Officials were setting up emergency offices so that the water department director and his staff could continue daily operations.

“We’re still going to do everything as far as fixing water leaks, and the toilets will still flush,” Freeman said.

City firefighter Stacy Blalock said firefighters could not immediately douse the fire – reported at 12:43 a.m. – because of nearby electrical lines.

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