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CONGRESS

SUMMERVILLE CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DISTRICT,

CHATTOOGA COUNTY, GA.

FEBRUARY 9, 1945.—Committed to the Committee of the Whole House and

ordered to be printed

Mr. McGEHEE, from the Committee on Claims, submitted the

following

REPORT

[To accompany H. R. 245)

The Committee on Claims, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 245) for the relief of the Summerville Consolidated School District, Chattooga County, Ga., having considered the same, report favorably thereon without amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.

An identical bill was favorably reported by your committee during the Seventy-eighth Congress, second session, but was objected to on the floor of the House and recommitted to the committee.

The facts will be found fully set forth in House Report No. 990, Seventy-eighth Congress, which is appended hereto and made a part of this report.

[H. Rept. No. 990, 78th Cong., 2d sess.) The purpose of the proposed legislation is to appropriate the sum of $44,637.50 to the board of trustees, Summerville Consolidated School District, Chattooga County, Ga., in full settlement of the loss sustained by the destruction of the school building, including equipment, furniture, and fixtures therein, by fire on February 26, 1943, while in the custody and use of the Office of Price Administration.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

It appears that a school building was destroyed during the period when the Office of Price Administration was registering the citizens for their ration cards. The fire occurred at 5:10 a. m. on February 26, 1943. Registration was being conducted on Wednesday and Thursday, February 24 and 25. There was no school during this period. The fire was discovered the next morning at 5:10. At 9 o'clock on the evening of the 25th of February the schoolhouse was closed and the superintendent of schools and one of the assistants left there at 9:30 p. m. They had made an ordinary check-up to see if things were all right and found no evidence of doors being open or fires. However, the next morning the fire was discovered.

H. Repts., 79-1, vol. 1

18

Mr. Edward N. Hay, acting deputy administrator for administrative management, Office of Price Administration, wrote the committee under date of September 15, 1943, stating: “As a result of our investigation, I wish to recommend favorable action on this bill."

The only discrepancy apparently is in the statement of the value of the school. It was built in 1927 and had an addition put to it in 1934 and 1935. The Office of Price Administration places the value for replacing the building and equipment at $39,000. However, the evidence in this report will show that the value of the building and equipment amounts to $44,637.50. A statement by Mr. N. V. Dyer, superintendent of schools, gives the total value of the building as $47,500 less $20,000 insurance, or a net loss on the building of $27,500. He also gives an itemized statement of equipment totaling $19,137.50, on which there was $2,000 insurance, leaving a total loss in equipment of $17,137.50, so that the total loss in building and equipment, after the deductions for insurance, amounts to $44,637.50.

It is the opinion of your committee that the sum of $44,637.50 should be paid for the replacement of this school building, and recommend favorable consideration to the bill.

Appended hereto is the report of the Office of Price Administration, together with other pertinent evidence.

OFFICE OF PRICE ADMINISTRATION,

Washington, D. C., September 15, 1943. The Honorable Dan R. McGEHEE, Chairman, Committee on Claims,

House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. McGEHEE: For the information of the Committee on Claims, we are attaching copies of reports of the investigation of the burning of the Summerville Consolidated School Building, Chattooga County, Ga., and a chart showing the construction of the building and the location of the fire.

As a result of our investigation, I wish to recommend favorable action on this bill. Sincerely yours,

EDWARD N. HAY, Acting Deputy Administrator for Administrative Management.

OFFICE OF PRICE ADMINISTRATION,
REGIONAL OFFICE, FOURTH REGION,

Atlanta, Ga., March 23, 1943.
To: Mr. Edward N. Hay, Acting Deputy Administrator for Administrative

Management, Washington, D. C.
From: Alexander Harris, Assistant Regional Administrator.
Subject: Summerville, Ga., High School fire.

With reference to your memorandum dated March 9, file 511:HEP, on the above subject, please note the attached memorandum, which gives a report of the investigation.

The building was completely destroyed. The cause of the fire is undetermined.

OFFICE OF PRICE ADMINISTRATION,

GEORGIA STATE OFFICE,

Atlanta, Ga., March 19, 1943. To: Mr. Alexander Harris, Assistant Regional Administrator. From: W. 8. Gardner, Assistant Organization Officer, Georgia State Office. Subject: Summerville, Ga., High School fire.

This will acknowledge your memorandum of March 17, 1943.

I am attaching copy of a report made to Mr. L. Marvin Roberts, State organization officer, covering this particular subject. Also attached are copies of document transfer forms covering R-121 and R-123. Also attached is a sketch of the building as drawn by Professor Sublette, principal of the Summerville High School,

I called on Mr. H. L. Collier of the Fire Companies Adjustment Bureau, Inc., 701 Trust Co. of Georgia Building, Atlanta, Ga., which company sent one of their adjusters to Summerville who made a report on this case. This adjuster was John Rooney, Jr., of Rome, Ga. Mr. Collier stated that he could not give us a copy of the adjuster's report but was willing to answer any questions pertaining to information from the report. The following information was obtained from him as reflected from the adjuster's report:

The cause of the fire was undetermined but there was no indication or suspicion of anyone having set fire to the building. The agreed value on the building was placed at $32,206 and sound value of the equipment was $8,717. From the report it was estimated that the replacement cost of the building would be approximately $39,000.

There was $20,000 insurance coverage on the building and $2,000 insurance on the fixtures and equipment. This confirms the amount of insurance as furnished the writer by Mr. J. L. McGinnis, treasurer and trustee of the Summerville School Board.

As shown in my report, Mr. Dyer, superintendent of the school, and Professor Sublette, principal of the school, were the last to leave the building on the night of Thursday, February 25, 1943, and the fire was not discovered until about 5:10 *&. m., Friday, February 26, 1913.

Mr. Collier, of the Fire Companies Adjustment Bureau, Inc., stated that there were several theories of what could have caused the fire but there was nothing to indicate any willful negligence on the part of anyone that might have caused the fire. There was no Government official or employee of the board at the school site when Mr. Dyer closed the building for the night. Those present just prior to the closing of the building consisted of Mr. Dyer, Professor Sublette, some of the school teachers who were acting as registrars, and, of course, applicants for War Ration Book No. 2.

I trust that this will give you information to complete your report to Mr. Hay. We are returning herewith the complete file that was sent to us from your office.

Georgia STATE OFFICE,

Atlanta, Ga., March 1, 1943. To: Mr. L. Marvin Roberts, organization officer. From: W. S. Gardner, assistant organization officer. Subject: Fire, Summerville High School registration site.

It was reported to this office by long-distance telephone about 10 a. m. that fire destroyed the Summerville High School, Summerville, Chattooga County, Ga., at which point a registration was being conducted for the issuance of War Ration Book 2.

In company with D. I. Barron, of organization division, regional office, I left Atlanta at 11:25 a. m. in State patrol car driven by Lieutenant Culbertson, with supplies furnished from the regional forms distribution unit, to replace supposedly destroyed forms. I stopped at Cartersville board office to get additional books No. 2, but they had no surplus. I was able to get 500 books No. 2 from the Floyd County board. I secured Document Transfer Form No. 180 to cover to the Chattooga board. I arrived at Summerville at 3:10 p. m.

I held conference with Mrs. Alexander, chief clerk, and Mr. McWhorter, board chairman, checked over the supplies with them, and secured the necessary signature on document transfer. Also I checked document transfer forms on books that were sent to Summerville High School on Tuesday, February 23. The attached document transfer developed that 5,950 books were sent to this registration site, so from this we could work to the end of determining which books were destroyed.

We went to the burned site to inspect it and then went into conference with the board chairman, N. V. Dyer, school superintendent, and George Sublette, principal of the high school. The following facts were secured:

The Summerville High School, located about one-half mile south of the courthouse on the Rome Highway and University Avenue, a one-story brick veneer and composition roof building, was completely destroyed by fire, Friday, February 26. The alarm was turned in by an ambulance driver from Rome who was passing the site about 5:10 a. m. The weather was clear and a very slight wind blowing from the northeast and away from other buildings close by. The alarm brought fire apparatus from some of the adjoining towns, but the fire had made such headway that all efforts to save the building were of no avail. The fire burned out by

about 7 a. m. but smoldered all day. There was nothing left but piles of brick and twisted steel girders. Practically nothing was saved; all school equipment, records, band instruments, etc., being completely destroyed. The attached sketch of the building was drawn by Mr. Sublette, school principal, which shows that the fire started in about the middle of the building. The loss was estimated by Mr. J. L. McGinnis, treasurer and trustee of the local school board, at between $55,000 and $60,000, with $22,000 insurance. Part of the sbuilding was built in 1927 and the new part completed in 1935.

Mr. Dyer stated that registration started Wednesday at 3 p. m. and continued to 9 p. m. that night. Registration continued Thursday from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m. Mr. Dyer and Professor Sublette were the last to leave the building. They put all the document register sheets, records, and books in the office and locked them up. They locked the building and left about 9:30 p. m. This office was located in the corner of the building. The validation stamps were put in the small safe, but there was not sufficient room for the books or records. They stated there was no available fireproof storage available at that time of night. The condition of the stamps is unknown as the safe has not been opened.

There have been several theories advanced as to the cause of the fire. One was that someone in the crowded site between 8 and 9 p. m. might have thrown a cigarette or cigar on the floor; another was that it caught from defective wiring. No fire inspector had made any check up to the time of leaving. It was not believed to have started in the boiler room in the basement, as this room was completely enclosed with reinforced concrete. There were metal trash cans located throughout the building.

There were about 9 registrars and 6 helpers assisting Mr. Dyer and Professor Sublette. I talked to Mrs. Harry L. McGinnis and Mrs. Irene Hunt, two teachers assisting in the registration. The document transfer shows books 24001 to 30000 except 26001 to 26050, inclusive, making a total of 5,950 books to account for. Some of the registrars were able to recall some of the first and last people registering for books before the fire. We made a physical check of the books held by these people to confirm the issuance of the books. The lowest books checked early were: James Johnson, 24058; Nell B. Taylor, 24059; J. D. Taylor, 24060; Margaret E. Barrett, 24061. Some of the highest books checked were: E. C. Pesterfield and family, 26069, 26070, 26071, 26072; Mrs. Irene Hunt, 26075; Mrs. Harry L. McGinnis, 26122; James R. Stephenson and family, 26160, 26161, 26162.

It is believed that the Stephenson family were the last that registered. From the above deduction it can be assumed that approximately 2,104 books were used; also that approximately 3,846 books were not used and were destroyed in the fire. These were numbered 26163 through 30000.

As all completed document registers were burned as well as consumer declarations, a plan was worked out with Mr. McWhorter and Mrs. Alexander to get information for the board's records as follows: It will be announced in the schools, churches, weekly paper, etc., that everybody who got book 2 before the fire at Summerville High School come back to the courthouse starting Monday, March 1, to make another declaration and show book 2, so that information can be secured as nearly as possible as to the books issued; so that document register can be made. This will be handled by the board and other volunteers.

The registration was continued after the fire, starting Friday morning at the grammar school, and will be completed by Saturday night if possible. The final tabulation and report of registration will be delayed on account of the fire as above stated.

I have never seen a finer spirit of cooperation displayed on the part of the board and school officials under the trying conditions as the result of this disastrous fire. The school officials are faced with a grave problem of housing and continuing the high-school activities. This did not deter them from pitching right in at once to complete the job of registration.

GEORGIA,

Chattooga County: Personally appeared before the undersigned attesting witness Leon J. Gamble, chairman of the board of trustees, J. L. McGinnis, secretary-treasurer of the board of trustees, A. F. McCurdy, Fred B. Elrod, and James Ř. Burgess, members of the board of trustees of the Summerville public school system, who, first being duly sworn, depose and say that the Summerville High School Building which was destroyed by fire on the morning of February 26, 1943, had been turned over to the Office of Price Administration for the purpose of registering for War Ration Book No. 2 on Wednesday, February 24, 1943, from 3 p. m. to 9 p. m., and on Thursday, February 25, 1943, from 9 a. m. to 9 p. m.; that, according to their information, knowledge, and belief, Mr. N. v. Dyer, superintendent of school, and Mr. George Sublette, principal of the school, closed and locked the school building at some time between 9:30 and 10 o'clock p. m. Thursday night before the building was destroyed a few hours later, and at approximately 5:10 a. m.; that the building had been completely relinquished to the Office of Price Administration for this purpose, and no school or classes had been held in the building for 2 days, and the building was in no way in charge of, nor in the custody or control of the school officials during the registration of said ration books; that the building destroyed was the newest addition to the high-school campus, and was not a fire hazard, being a one-story brick-veneered building, which cost approximately $33,000, and that the equipment destroyed, consisting of school desks, stoves, machines, the band and other musical instruments, the library, and other valuable assets, could not be replaced at this time for $10,000. Deponents say, based upon information they have received from architects and contractors, it would take approximately $60,000 under present conditions to restore the building to its former condition. In other words, the loss to the Summerville School District is $60,000 in addition to the $20,000 which the insurance company paid for the building and $2,000 for the equipment. In other words, according to deponent's information, it would cost between $80,000 and $85,000 to restore the building complete with the equipment therein, due to present prices of materials and equipment, as well as labor; that they have received insurance in the sum of $20,000 for the building, and $2,000 for the equipment.

Deponents further say that they do not see how any person could have observed during the fire that there was any indication that this fire started in, at, or near the science room, as it was one of the places to burn longest, and was in the back part of the building and nearer the furnace room, and the other portion of the building was destroyed first; that they do not know whether the science room was used by the Office of Price Administration or not, but the main hall was used all of its length by registrants in going to various classrooms where they registered and received their books, and all other areas traversed by people in entering and leaving the building there were numerous cigar and cigarette stubs, which were thrown down by people while in the building, and while deponents cannot positively say exactly what caused this fire, they are certain in their information, knowledge, and belief that it was not destroyed due to any electrical disturbance, from the science room or boiler room, for the reasons given in the affidavit of Fred B. Elrod and Earl Beatty, electrical engineers, and it is to be assumed that the building would still be standing and ready for use if the Office of Price Administration had not used it for the purposes hereinbefore stated; that the building had not been used for any educational or other school activities for the period relinquished to the Office of Price Administration, and the fire could not have originated from causes in connection with school activities, and there is only one assumption to be had in this connection, and that is that the fire originated from the use by the Office of Price Administration of the high school premises, as there was no other apparent agency of any kind or character that could have caused the fire.

Deponents are informed that information has been advanced to the Office of Price Administration, Washington, D. C., that the agreed value of the building destroyed by fire is reported to be $32,206, and the agreed value of the equipment is reported to be $8,717; that these figures were never agreed to by the undersigned, nor did they know of anyone agreeing to same, but say that the loss of the building and fixtures and other valuable assets therein is between $80,000 and $85,000, and that $22,000 has been paid by the insurance company.

LEON J. GAMBLE, Chairman.
J. L. McGINNIS, Treasurer.
James R. BURGESS, Secretary.
A. F. McCURDY.

FRED B. ELROD. Sworn to and subscribed before me this 4th day of June 1943. (SEAL)

W. C. HARDY, J. P.

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