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Upgrades To Franklin County Courthouses Possible

Two aging Franklin County courthouse buildings soon could see makeovers.

Franklin County, with a population of 18,125, has two county seats and two courthouse buildings, in Charleston and Ozark.

Both buildings are registered on the National Register of Historic Places, so the county must receive prior approval from the Arkansas Historical Preservation Program before making modifications. AHPP, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, administers or assists grant programs that seek to preserve the state’s historic resources while broadening the appreciation of Arkansas history and historic preservation.

“We heard about a grant that historical buildings could apply for,” Franklin County Justice of the Peace Lacey Neissl said. “Someone from the Arkansas Historical Preservation Program came out to visit to see if the (Charleston courthouse) building would qualify for it.”

The county originally approached a grant for upgrades to the 90-year-old Charleston building but also is seeking a grant for the 104-year-old Ozark building.

“No one has come out to see Ozark yet, but if we could get a grant for each of them, that would be great,” Neissl said.

Franklin County Judge Janet Powell said it is too early to announce an estimation of money for repairs, but she has met with Western Arkansas Planning and Development District to help with the grant application and is setting a priority list for repairs. Once the a list of repairs needed for each building is complete, it will submitted for approval from the Arkansas Historical Preservation Program and the Quorum Court.

Both buildings are in need of structural and cosmetic attention.

Charleston is in greater need, with visible water damage, and rotting wood and support beams, and exposed piping that can be seen throughout the building.

“It’s a beautiful building that just needs some repairs,” Neissl said of the Charleston courthouse. “We are hoping to get the doors replaced and some roof repairs. We are really looking forward to getting it fixed.”

A new feature in line for the Charleston courthouse would be adding a gazebo on the front lawn.

Officials say that it is too early in the process to provide a time frame or cost estimation for repairs. Neissl said the next step is to get an architect to assess what the county wants to do for each building and submit architectural bids along with the grant for approval.

At its July meeting, the Quorum Court voted to apply for the grant. The deadline to apply for the grant is March 2014 and officials are hopeful to hear by June 2014 if they have received approval for the grant.

“We want to stay after it and get this opportunity,” Neissl said. “The deadline is next year, so it won’t be anything that is fixed right away.”

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