Scott Young, News Editor
JSU officials have placed the demolition of Wallace Hall on hold after an official in the Federal Emergency Management Agency ordered a review of the building “to be reconsidered as a repair rather than a replacement”, according to Jim Brigham, the JSU vice president for finance and administration.
“One of his [FEMA official] reasons was that there had been six earthquakes in the area that may have actually caused the damage rather than the tornado,” said Brigham. “I’m not aware that we’ve had six earthquakes here but clearly the damage was done by the tornado.”
On March 19, 2018, Wallace Hall, which housed the university’s School of Health Professions and Wellness, was significantly damaged by an EF-3 tornado. Nearly two years later, Wallace Hall still stands, with its fate unknown to university officials.
“We are awaiting a word from FEMA and state insurance on what to do with Wallace,” said Don Killingsworth, the acting president of Jacksonville State University. “There’s still a chance that we could move back into Wallace with some kind of renovation and there’s still a chance it could be torn down.”
Brigham said that the Wallace Hall got to the last step of the approval process for replacement before a FEMA official “sent it all the way back to the beginning”. Brigham also said that the university plans to appeal that decision once FEMA sends them a determination letter.
The university’s original plan was to renovate Wallace Hall and reopen the facility in the spring of 2019. Later, the university said in a press release that foundation issues were discovered and that the building was declared a “total loss” and a $31 million project to rebuild the facility was approved by the Board of Trustees in July 2019.
After the fall 2019 semester began, the university announced that a demolition ceremony for Wallace Hall would take place on October 17, 2019. The ceremony was later cancelled and three months later, the trustees approved plans to move the School of Health Professions and Wellness to the RMC-JSU complex and Brookstone Medical Center, replacing the previous project to rebuild Wallace Hall.
Attempts to reach the Alabama Emergency Management Agency for comment were not successful at the time of publication. The Alabama EMA “manages the flow of federal resources, services and personnel” to incidents in the state.