Old Federal Building in Harrison, Ark. closed due to possible gas leak; two employees hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 6:47 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2022 at 7:24 PM CST
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - County offices in the Old Federal Building in Harrison are closed through Martin Luther King Jr. Day after a possible gas leak.

The Boone County Judge’s Office sent out a notification late Thursday morning that the building, located at 201 N. Main Street in Harrison, would be closed for the rest of the week and reopen after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

This decision was made after employees reported smelling an odor in the building. Two employees were later admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning.

The Old Federal Building in downtown Harrison has had its issues. Originally built in 1906, it is a historical structure, which makes repairs to the building difficult.

”We’ve had problems with it in the past. It hasn’t been condemned or anything like that, but I did close down a couple of floors,” said Boone County Judge Robert Hathaway.

Recently, with the building being closed, the latest incident sent two employees, who have not been identified, to the hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning.

”I couldn’t smell it and I had some other people over there and couldn’t smell it,” said Hathaway. “Carbon monoxide has no odor, but natural gas does, but we couldn’t smell anything. We called in Black Hills Gas Company, and we called the fire department. We got everybody out of the building and I just sent everybody home. Closed the building down and made sure nobody was in there. Black Hills really didn’t find anything, there was one regulator they said could’ve leaked a little bit.”

The county is already working to replace that regulator. Meanwhile, Boone County continues to search for the source of the problem and a solution to the aging building.

“The ultimate solution is actually move everybody in one unit, because right now we’re actually spread out anyway,” said Justice of the Peace Fred Woehl. “That has been a long process and is easier said than done.”

The county has been close to moving offices to multiple locations. But finding the right property, at the right price, that all justices agree on has been a difficult task. Additionally, the Boone County courthouse is currently without heat.

”That’s all kind of part of this. If we can find out in the next month or so, if we can go out and find another building I don’t want to go and spend a bunch of the taxpayers’ money on this building here,” said Hathaway. “Of course the building will always belong to the county, it’s a historical building and we hope to keep it that way.”

According to families of the two employees hospitalized, both are currently at home recovering.

”My biggest concern now is just finding out where it is coming from,” said Hathaway. “I’m glad there weren’t more people that got sick, and hopefully we can find wherever the issue is coming from.”

Boone County says it will continue to inspect the building in the coming days, and is hopeful it will be back open Tuesday, Jan. 18. But Judge Hathaway says that won’t happen unless the problem is found or the building deemed safe for work.

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