A new year is with us. We can reflect on the old one, make resolutions for the new one — and it really means little. Basic issues don’t go away. They stay with us, like them or not.
Today’s focus is on one such thing, the Faulkner County Courthouse. Like a bad tooth, it may fade from or immediate attention, but the problem is still there. The Faulkner County courthouse is inadequate, primarily as a result of our rapid growth.
A while back there was focus on this need, including some study by the Faulkner Quorum Court. Three conflicting lines of thought emerged and have not been resolved.
One is the thinking that the existing Great Depression-era courthouse should be torn town and a larger modern one constructed in its place.
Another thought has been to build a new one in another area that could have plenty of room and parking space.
And a third thought was to patch, add on and rent nearby space.
Some folks strongly believe that the present courthouse is a historical structure that should be kept, even if not used as the courthouse.
The patch, add on and rent is what has been done for quite a while now. It’s a get-by strategy, and it does not erase the basic need — a single building with enough space for the future and with sufficient parking.
There is no easy route to solving this courthouse problem, and we don’t have an answer – except that something needs to be done. That something will cost a goodly sum of money, and this alone automatically sets up a howl in some quarters. “Spend more money? No. Our taxes are too high now.”
Is a new courthouse the most pressing need for Faulkner County here in young 2013? Should the focus be on better county roads instead? Should a county animal facility come first? How about improving salaries for county employees?
All three are needed, but the pressing courthouse issue will not go away.
With various county offices scattered around the neighborhood in converted residences and former business buildings, convenience is not present.
Our wish is for creative and bold thinking. The Quorum Court has a courthouse committee even if it may be inactive. Augment this committee with some citizens — a few and not many — who can collectively look for unexplored and new avenues to get a new courthouse project underway.
We have seen improvements come about in Conway through such a route, and each time there have been naysayers voicing opposition. Fine. This is life. Look what collaboration between Hendrix College and Southwestern Energy produced — a large and attractive headquarters building.
There is a large empty site in south Conway, the former bus factory. We’re not recommending this for a new courthouse location but are saying it is something for thought.
If there is any value in appearances, in community or county image, the present courthouse is something of an embarrassment. Too small is the simple description. You can call it dowdy or rundown or a relic if you want.
This is the time for planning, for ideas to flow freely on a new courthouse.