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Children’s home lease request rejected

A Louisiana-based children’s home is still investigating thepossibility of relocating to southern Lincoln County, despitelosing its quickest possible “in” with the Lincoln County SchoolBoard earlier this week.

Berean Children’s Home, Inc., President Wendell Davis said hisorganization’s board of directors is still exploring all possibleavenues for moving the 23-member home for abandoned and abusedchildren from Albany, La., to a site near its primary support baseat Mt. Olive Church of Christ in the Enterprise area. The churchhelped found the home in 1979.

Two weeks ago, Davis had requested a 10-acre lease of 16thSection lands from the school board, which the board denied duringits Monday meeting.

Davis said the denial of the lease might sidetrack Berean’sefforts to come to Lincoln County, but it would not derail them. Henoted that many more questions must be answered before a decisionto uproot the organization is made.

“We were looking for some permanent land anyway, so we’ll justkeep looking,” Davis said. “Right now, it’s more of a feasibilitystudy to see if we can do something. If we can, we’d certainly liketo.”

Basically, Davis implied the denial of the lease might add morepoints to the home staying in Louisiana, where facilities alreadyexist and are paid for. Selling the existing property would be aprerequisite to moving the operation to Lincoln County, hesaid.

Davis said the home’s nine-member board of directors woulddetermine the next step in the process.

“We think we could do a better job of supervising and runningthe home from up here,” he said. “We’ll have to get our headstogether and decide what we’re going to do.”

Lincoln County School District Superintendent Terry Brister saidhe appreciates the work Berean does for less fortunate children,but the unknowns associated with granting such a landmark lease -which would have been the first of its kind for the district – weretoo much, especially during a time when 16th Section leases arebeing reformed by the state.

Brister said the decision to deny the lease was made only afterresearching the possibilities with several other school districtsaround the state.

“We have never had anything to that capacity, and we didn’t knowwhat we would have to deal with in the future,” he said. “The moresimple we keep the leases and not venture out, the better off weare.”

The majority of the board’s leases on 16th Section lands havedealt with residential, agricultural, hunting and limitedcommercial leases, Brister said. But the scope of a possible Bereanlease would have taken the board to unexplored territory.

During the last board meeting on Dec. 1, Davis stated hisintentions to construct new and large facilities such asdormitories and a gymnasium on the leased land. Brister and theboard discussed the legal questions that could arise from suchconstruction, particularly the ownership of the buildings duringBerean’s tenure and if the home decided to relocate in thefuture.

“The attractive part of this was that the home serves kids, butthe unattractive thing was the capacity we would have to allow …the unknown of taking on that type of venture,” Brister said.