Courthouse lights to get safety upgrade thanks to $21K grant
Improvements in technology will help reduce costs and improve the safety of lights decorating the historic Little River County Courthouse in downtown Ashdown, Ark.
The courthouse, built in 1907, is the crown jewel of Ashdown’s Christmas tree lighting program.
Little River County officials decided to change the existing electric bulbs to LED lights to improve safety and efficiency, Little River County Judge Mike Cranford said.
The LED lights will replace the bulbs used to outline the courthouse.
The traditional lights have been used since 1992 when the courthouse was outlined in holiday lights.
“The lights were becoming brittle and a hazard. The existing bulbs were causing heat in the wooden areas of the courthouse. We were worried about fires,” Cranford said.
The community advisory team discussed potential changes in the lights, and with “technology being what it is, we decided to make a
change,” Cranford said.
Research was conducted by the Domtar community advisory team, and the decision was made to adopt LED technology. LEDs use only about 10 percent of the energy an incandescent lamp requires.
“We spent most of the summer seeking information about the new products and to the people who had the skills to implement the new products,” he said.
The committee contacted Texoma Landscape and Garden Center in Durant.
“Texoma made a few trips down here and looked at the courthouse and old photos to get an idea,” Cranford said.
“They made a proposal, and we took it to the Ashdown community auction committee. The community auction committee hosts the annual community auction to raise money for community projects,” Cranford said.
The committee agreed and donated a grant of $21,000 to pay for the project. Little River County will pay some of the equipment rental costs, Cranford said.
The county will pay for the lease of equipment and surplus.
Currently it costs about $500 a month to provide electricity to decorate the courthouse during the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.
The LED lights will reduce the costs from $500 a month to about $300 a month.
The Arkansas Historic Preservation Program recognizes the two-story building as architecturally and historically significant as one of the most impressive county courthouses in Arkansas and as the most prominent structure in Little River County, according to the Arkansas Encyclopedia.
The courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 26, 1976.
Two historical markers stand at opposite ends of the concrete walkway cutting through the lawn. The first details the county seat’s move to Ashdown. The other lists Little River County as the home of Gov. Jeff Davis, describing him as one of Arkansas’ most colorful personalities. A war memorial is on the grounds, dedicated to veterans who served from Little River County in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
A time capsule is also on the grounds in a red brick box that matches the courthouse. Dedicated as part of the celebrations surrounding the sesquicentennial anniversary of Arkansas’ statehood, it was sealed on April 26, 1986, and is slated to be opened in another 150 years, on April 26, 2136. The courthouse’s centennial anniversary celebration on April 18, 2007, included an address by Gov. Mike Beebe.
■ A crowd gathers Nov. 27, 2013, at the Little River County Courthouse in Ashdown, Ark., to watch the lighting of the Christmas lights.