At bankrupt Lon Morris, buildings frozen in time

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Associated Press

Posted on December 2, 2012 at 7:32 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Texas (AP) — The grounds of the oldest junior college in Texas appear to be frozen in time. They're deserted, but otherwise little-altered as they wait to go on the auction block.

The Tyler Morning Telegraph (http://bit.ly/TAk4Uv) reported Saturday that books still line the library shelves at Lon Morris College.

At the theater building, sheet music and pianos occupy one classroom, while signs designate "cheerleader seating" in the gymnasium, where green-and-white banners still showcase the success of the basketball program at the United Methodist school in East Texas.

Inside the cafeteria, athletic uniforms and cheerleading items are on tables, along with framed theater photographs and a certificate marking Lon Morris' 130th anniversary.

The only occupied facility on campus is the administration building, where a limited staff continues to work. All of the buildings will go on sale when the college auctions off core facilities Dec. 13 in Dallas, as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

Located in Jacksonville, about 125 miles southeast of Dallas, Lon Morris suspended classes in August after the U.S. Department of Education decided not to allow students to use federal aid there. Federal statutes disqualify schools that file for bankruptcy.

About 100 students were expected to attend Lon Morris this fall, and now other East Texas community colleges have stepped in to help accommodate them.

A few years ago, the two-year college reinstated its football team after a nearly 70-year hiatus in hopes of saving the school from mounting debt by increasing enrollment. Instead, Lon Morris was burdened with waves of new students who couldn't pay their bills and overwhelming football expenses.

The debt topped out at more than $20 million, according to court documents, forcing administrators to furlough almost the entire faculty.

Now, the school is about to auction off property that encompass about 112 acres of academic halls, student housing and athletic facilities, according to an auction brochure.

Lon Morris has about 50,000 square-feet of academic lecture halls, about 95,000 square-feet in student dormitories, an athletic training complex, a gym and multiple playing fields, the brochure states.

"There are so many things this group of buildings can be, just depending on what ultimate configuration it ends up," Carl Carter, spokesman for AmeriBid, the company auctioning off Lon Morris' facilities said.

Lon Morris Chief Restructuring Officer Dawn Ragan said some personal property will be auctioned with the buildings. Other items may be purchased by other schools, while some things the school is hoping to return to donors, and still other things will be made available to the alumni and local community.

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Information from: Tyler Morning Telegraph, http://www.tylerpaper.com

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