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County Breaks Ground on Courthouse Project


It was standing room only in the third floor courtroom of the Mississippi County Courthouse in Blytheville, Friday afternoon, as the audience took part in the historic groundbreaking ceremony of the renovation of the courthouse.

County Judge John Alan Nelson gave the history of the Blytheville courthouse and spoke about what the citizens of Blytheville can expect for at least the next two years.

Nelson stated that the renovation of the Blytheville courthouse is long awaited.

The Blytheville courthouse was constructed in 1919 and passed the century mark last year.

According to Justice Michael White, the courthouse project has spanned through four county judges - Steve McGuire, the late Randy Carney, Dr. Terri Brassfield and Nelson.

Nelson added that the support shown in the project speaks volumes of the renovation process needing to take place at the Blytheville courthouse as Mississippi County voters agreed, with 72 percent of the vote, to extend the 1/2-cent hospital tax, which will be split between the hospital system and a $14 million renovation to the Blytheville Courthouse and $2 million in improvements at the Osceola Courthouse.

"I think the fact of after six years in Circuit Court and two-years in the Arkansas State Supreme Court and then putting together a model that the county people not only could accept but wanted," Nelson said. "I think the 72 percent, I think they showed us that they wanted it. And I think the fact that you had this many people come out, stop what they were doing for work on a rainy, January day and fill this courtroom up tells you that we are all in this together."

Nelson told the Town Courier that he signed the contract with Construction Network Inc. (CNI) Friday morning and started working after the ceremonies concluded.

"We are very excited. We've been working on this every day for the last 12 months and prior to that the last six years and you can probably even go back another five years or so," Nelson mentioned. "This is certainly a very, very big day for the Blytheville and the county as a whole. They are going to start on this building today. The contractors and I just signed the contract this morning."

Nelson added that he also signed the contract with the roofing company and once done with the Blytheville roof, crews will go to Osceola and begin on the roof there.

"We've also signed the contract for the roofing companies, which is a different one than the general contractor for this building, and when they leave (Blytheville) and I'm going to say will probably be the middle of the summer, when they get the roof completed here, then they are going to go to Osceola. We will have another groundbreaking ceremony there, and we will start in on that building."

Overall, Nelson explained the total renovation process will be at least 480 days, possibly two years.

Architect Aaron Ruby, who has been on the project since 2014, will lead architecture on the building and is thrilled to began working on the project.

"We are thrilled. It's a long time coming. People working in this building have been very patient in the conditions that they have been working in," Ruby explained. "The courthouse is more deserving of more respect and more dignity for a courtroom. So, we are just excited to see that come to fruition. It's a wonderful building, wonderful courtroom just thrilled to be involved and seeing that come to life."

Blytheville Mayor James Sanders was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremonies and stated he's been glad to work with the county and Quorum Court on the renovation project of the courthouse in Blytheville.

"This is a crowning achievement for Mississippi County and Blytheville being a city in Mississippi County, its a win-win for everybody," Sanders said. "The collaborative effort with both the quorum court members and with the mayor's office, it's just, again, I love seeing the cooperation and working with the leadership of the county as well as working with the leadership of our city and again I think great things are to come."

State Senator Dave Wallace (R-Leachville) recalled coming to the Blytheville courthouse with his dad in the 1950s and is glad to see the preservation of the history of Mississippi County in the Blytheville courthouse.

"Today is a great day for Mississippi County. Renovation of the north courthouse will preserve the history of our county and our forefathers," Wallace explained. "I have so many good memories of coming to this courthouse with my dad back in the 50s when you would look over the abstracts and real estate records stored on the second floor."

Representative Monte Hodges (D-Blytheville) stated the groundbreaking of the Blytheville courthouse is an exciting moment for Mississippi County and is long overdue.

"This is a very exciting moment for Mississippi County," said Hodges. "And to know that it was a unified effort from both the north and south end of the county makes it just that much more special. It's been way overdue!"