Former Osborne home donated to city of Redfield

Just in time for Christmas, the City of Redfield received a gift Monday that could go a long way in a quest to purchase the old Redfield Middle School, which was closed at the end of the 2012-13 academic year.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Tuesday that Redfield developer and contractor Kourosh Malek on Monday reportedly deeded a former Little Rock home of late businessman and philanthropist Jennings Osborne to the City of Redfield. Indications are that the house — appraised at $1.6 million — may be sold with proceeds going toward the schoolhouse’s purchase.

Efforts to contact Malek and Redfield Mayor Tony Lawhon were unsuccessful.

Malek purchased the house for $291,500 last year in an auction held to aid in satisfying Osborne family debts. The house — located at 4 Robinwood Drive along Cantrell Road — was among three neighboring homes that formerly were widely recognized for Osborne’s magnificent Christmas light displays.

The lights went out in 1993 when Osborne — who died in 2011 — lost a legal challenge by his neighbors, who were displeased by the heavy pedestrian and automobile traffic attracted by the extravaganza.

The White Hall School Board voted in January 2013 to shut down RMS, which occupies an eight-acre site. All future students in grades five through eight within the district will attend White Hall Middle School.

A move immediately developed in Redfield for acquisition of RMS and establishment of the Redfield Tri-County Charter School.

Redfield leaders had sought the district’s donation of the old RMS site to the city, but the district’s board of directors earlier this month voted unanimously to auction the property at a “fair market value” to a “responsible” bidder — one who can pay cash. The school’s worth was recently assessed at $391,000.

White Hall Superintendent Larry Smith and the board said that they had received legal opinions that the school could not be given away because it’s involved in a current bond issue.

Bids are being received through Jan. 4. A bid opening is scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 14 at the district’s Julius Brown Administration Building.