Westside Eagle-Observer

County finishes work on restrooms

- Mike Jones Mike Jones can be reached by email at mjones@nwaonline.com.

BENTON COUNTY — New restrooms, a courtroom ceiling fix, and a gravel parking lot are among the facility projects Benton County has recently completed downtown.

New restrooms in the judicial tower downtown were to open Monday, a county official said.

The public bathrooms on the first, second, and third floors were remodeled, and new staff-only restrooms were added on the second and third floors, said Bryan Beeson, county facilities administra­tor.

The bathrooms were 22 years old. Work started Aug. 8. The tower is sandwiched between the historic courthouse and the old jail.

There also are restrooms in the tower behind the Sheriff’s Office deputy station on the first floor. Those were added when the new Division 7 courtroom and main courtroom entrance off East Central Avenue were put in last year, Beeson said.

The Quorum Court used $378,355 in American Rescue Plan money for the bathroom project, Beeson said. Legacy Constructi­on of Springdale was the contractor.

The county received $27 million last year and will get another $27 million this year as part of the American Rescue Plan.

The county also recently fixed a problem in Circuit Judge Robin Green’s courtroom on the third floor of the downtown courthouse.

The ceiling in Green’s courtroom was installed in March 1940. It’s an ornate, insulated ceiling that helps reduce noise in the courtroom. The ceiling over the years has deteriorat­ed with paint flaking off, Beeson said.

A nine-panel “drop” ceiling now covers most of the 1,750-square-foot courtroom. The cost was $12,500, Beeson said.

Justice of the Peace Susan Anglin, who won her sixth term on the Quorum Court earlier this month, said when she started to serve on the Quorum Court, the county did not have any forward planning on facility maintenanc­e and often had costly surprise repairs that were not in the budget.

Beeson’s thorough analysis of each building’s needed updates and repairs has improved the impact on the county budget. The informatio­n he provides is invaluable in making decisions to spend tax dollars, she said.

The county also opened a temporary, 60-spot gravel parking lot at 207, 209 and 215 N.E. Second Street, northwest of the County Administra­tion Building, just before Toyland took place on the downtown square on Nov. 11, Beeson said.

Bentonvill­e’s Planning Commission approved a permit for temporary parking at its Sept. 6 meeting. The permit is good for two years.

The lot will be needed when work starts on a new parking deck at 300 E. Central Avenue, south of the administra­tion building. That area is now a paved lot county employees and others use for parking.

Plans for Off-Street Parking Developmen­t District No. 3 show a 46-foot-tall, mixed-use parking garage. The developmen­t will include 1,585 square feet of retail space and a 167,806-square-foot parking garage with 456 parking spaces, according to planning documents.

The garage also will be used by a new downtown hotel to be built to the west through an agreement with the Off-Street Parking Developmen­t District.

The gravel lot will not have restricted access and is open to the public, according to planning documents. The county doesn’t own the property, County Judge Barry Moehring previously said.

The county will maintain the lot during the conditiona­l-use period, Beeson said. Bentonvill­e Revitaliza­tion Inc. was the applicant for the conditiona­l use.

Justice of the Peace Kurt Moore said Beeson seems to have a well-organized operation and is proactive in spotting problems before they become an emergency.

Justice of the Peace Ken Farmer said Beeson does an outstandin­g job maintainin­g county buildings. He also has a feel for the historical significan­ce of the buildings, Farmer said.

Beeson already has two projects he is eyeing in 2023. One is to replace the 15-year-old boiler in the administra­tion building; its lifespan is winding down, he said. Beeson expects the boiler to be installed in the early spring at a cost of $89,000.

The county also plans to replace the original 36 windows in the 18,800-squarefoot Bogle Family Benton County Public Services building on Southwest 14th Street near the Road Department. The building, now owned by the county, was built in 1972.

Offices housed there are the county public defender, Road Department administra­tion, and the University of Arkansas Cooperativ­e Extension Service.

The original windows are single-pane and had hand cranks to open them. The cranks broke off through the years, Beeson said.

The new windows will be energy efficient and have double panes, Beeson said. The bid process will start early next year, and replacemen­t work will start in the spring.

“We will ramp that up the first of the year,” he said. “You don’t want to replace windows when it’s 10 degrees outside.”

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