Historic Blytheville courthouse plagued with flooding, falling walls

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BLYTHEVILLE, Ark. — The Blytheville courthouse in Mississippi County is falling apart and is becoming a safety hazard, the county judge says. Earlier this week the courthouse's law library was flooded and part of the ceiling collapsed after a drainage issue. Staff noticed the flooding Monday morning. However, that's just a small sliver of the bigger problem plaguing the more than 100-year-old building. On Thursday, buckets remained in the courthouse library. Water marks and parts of the ceiling missing. For a place supposed to represent law and order, it's pretty obvious there's a problem. "I'm concerned," said Mississippi County Judge Terri Brassfield. She said the issues plaguing the historical courthouse have been a long time coming. Her main concern is a third-floor courtroom where, on any given day when court is in session, the place is packed. "Our outside walls are now our interior walls because our interior walls are falling daily, in chunks. So we have exposed exterior wall, that has now become our interior wall." The most recent problem was a drainage issue. Brassfield said without replacing the building's roof, they will continue to have interior wall damage. Fixing that is not cheap. It could cost anywhere from $250,000  to $300,000. "And that quote was from about four years ago, five years ago. It may be a little bit more than that now," explained the judge.
Over the years problems that have come up have been patched — essentially fixed with a Band-Aid — but Brassfield says the building is past that. She said serious help is needed to not only protect the public who uses the building and others who are there every day. "We have wonderful employees and every day they come we are putting them in danger of something happening because we have walls that are deteriorating, we have ceilings that are deteriorating, we have a roof that's deteriorating. It's just time to get something done." Brassfield said they're also outgrowing the historic building. What will happen next is to be determined. Leaders are meeting to decide the best fix. If the decision is reached to build a new courthouse that would require a public vote.

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