HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) – Boone County officials have approved the purchase of First Presbyterian Church in Harrison for $4.5 million, along with a $1.5 million renovation project for the building.
The decision was adopted at a college court session on February 8. The church approved the plan and presented it to its congregation a few days later.
Heath Kirkpatrick, a member of the Boone County quorum court, participated in KHOZ’s “Round the Table” program Thursday to discuss the county’s purchase of the First Presbyterian Church building.
Kirkpatrick said the building has a total area of about 43,000 square feet. It will house a main sanctuary courtroom and a few other smaller courtrooms in the gym when the renovations are complete.
In addition, there is space for all of today’s offices, spread across the courthouse and the Old Federal Building. The office for emergency management will also be located there.
“We hope it will be a one-stop shop for the county,” Judge Robert Hathaway said. “I hope that the finance department will move in with us. We have the space for it. Plus 12 acres if we need to expand our parking lot.”
“I was saddened by it, but I also understood that there might have been a lot of debt,” said Ann Lemley, a former member of First Presbyterian Church. “That this would help reduce the debt.”
But it cost $4 million and $1.5 million renovation project. With this purchase, this means that district services such as City Hall will move away from downtown.
“It sure would have been nice not to have spent so much money,” Lemley said. “It seemed like Crockett would have been a better option and is keeping you on the pitch. There is always a struggle for the place to thrive. Of course, I’m afraid that’s going to wear off. Even though they’re building the community center, it feels like they’re taking the city’s businesses away from downtown.”
Some Boone County taxpayers have expressed frustration with the recent purchase of First Presbyterian Church. They believe there was a better option downtown at the Crockett Tower, also commonly referred to as the Durand Center.
“That was very disappointing, it was a no-brainer,” Kirkpatrick said. “It’s so close to downtown, let’s do it.”
Kirkpatrick, who has not announced he will be running for re-election, told KHOZ that they should be at the Durand Center. The reason is that some judges don’t like the building’s owner, Jeff Crockett. They also refused to buy his building.
“I submitted it to the Quorum Court and it was denied,” Judge Hathaway said. “Four of my judges were against the idea, sometimes things just work for a reason.”
In any case, the offices will be moving soon. Hathaway is more concerned about what’s next for the courthouse.
“I like to think that I’m one of the judges who really put a lot into this courtyard,” Hathaway said. “So it’s really important for me to see these monuments and the courtyard for what they are. The building itself, I would like to bring in some law firms or something that still draws people downtown.”
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