The Benton County Quorum Court approved a study to look at maybe moving court operations somewhere else.
Benton County Judge Bob Clinard said the historic courthouse isn’t falling apart but it doesn’t meet current building code standards.
The front entrance can’t be used because it longer meets the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, which is why he south entrance is used, according to Clinard. He also feels it’s not safe in case of a fire and there is only one elevator in the building that holds up to four people.
There are about 120 employees who work in the building, which was built in 1928.
“I don’t think it’s practical, nor do I think it’s safe, to ask people to work in a building that doesn’t meet current building codes,” said Clinard.
The $65,000 study is expected to start in June and will take up to five months. It will help determine cost estimates.
“When the study comes back it will give us an idea of what we think is the best location facility,” Clinard said.
Clinard said modern courthouses keep judges’ offices removed from public access for safety reasons and employees said there’s a lot of traffic in this building.
Betty Schrader has worked in the courthouse for 9 years. She’s a trial assistant for Judge Scott.
“We have people come in all the time that walk into our office, we don’t know who they are,” Schrader said.
While she says would miss the Bentonville Square, there are benefits to changing locations.
“As far as the security issues mainly it will be a good move if that ever happens or when that happens,” Schrader said.
If and when they move, Clinard said the historic building could be used for county offices, which would cut traffic at least 70 percent.
“This facility will stay here and it will remain part of the history and the beauty of Downtown Bentonville,” Clinard said.
The cost of the study cost will be shared with the organization Downtown Bentonville and they county.
The Benton County Courthouse is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Clinard said it would be too expensive to make it up to building code and it might risk its historic status.