Boone County, Ark. officials looking for new building after continued issues

Worsening conditions at the Old Federal Building in downtown Harrison has the county looking for a new location, which has proven to be a difficult task.
Published: Nov. 8, 2021 at 4:31 PM CST
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - The Boone County (Ark.) Assessor’s Office will move locations as concerns grow around the old Federal Building in downtown Harrison.

The building, which was originally constructed in 1903, continues to cause issues for Boone County officials. The county closed all of its top-floor offices due to water and roof damages. The assessor’s office is one of the oldest standing buildings to date, and like anything, time has taken a toll.

“It’s been remodeled inside, walls moved, and new ceilings put in and everything else like that,” said Boone County Judge Robert Hathaway. “We’ve looked at the option of doing a major repair to the building, but that’s far more expensive than moving to a new location.”

A historical site, keeping it up to date is becoming more difficult. Under historical preservation standards, any repairs or upgrades must match previous materials and standards.

”There are limitations of how you can fix it, repair it, you have to put it back to the original way that it was,” said Fred Woehl, a Boone County Justice of the Peace. “As we all know that can cost a lot of money.”

As the county grows, space isn’t even the main concern. The safety of the employees is a top priority. And the county is hopeful a move can reestablish all departments in one building.

”They put drains in every corner, cast iron drains, and over time that cast iron rusts,” said Woehl. “That’s what’s happened here. When it rains really hard, rain goes on the roof through those cast-iron drains and then spreads through the entire building.”

”Our employees, and constituents too, they pay taxes like anybody else,” Hathaway explained. “They have the right to work in a safe environment and a healthy environment.”

Over the past six months, finding a new home has proven to create just as many obstacles as the hope is to find a location in close proximity to downtown.

”The ultimate solution that we’re trying to do is actually move everybody into the same unit because right now we’re kinda scattered out everywhere,” said Woehl.

”We’re trying to keep it downtown as close as we can, but that’s slowly fizzling out,” said Hathaway. “We may be looking at building out by the jail or something like that for our courts. But that means we still have to find offices for our assessor and collector.”

The county is working through negotiations with different properties to try and secure a building(s) to best fit their needs. Hathaway says a move, however, will likely not come until after the first of the year.

Speculation surfaced in May that plans were to demolish the old federal building at the corner of North Main Street and Rush Avenue, but Judge Hathaway says that is not the case. The county is hopeful the building can serve a purpose for the public.

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