Fayetteville Library Waits For Court Decision Before Proceeding With Expansion Plans

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- The Fayetteville Public Library will get the money it needs to expand after voters passed a millage increase on Aug. 9, but library leaders have one more hurdle to clear before they make their plans a reality.

The old Fayetteville City Hospital, which sits just south of the library, closed in 2012 and has been vacant ever since.

Library Executive Director David Johnson said the city made a deal with Washington Regional Medical Center and traded the old city hospital property for a roundabout on North Futrall Drive in 2011.

In 2012, Washington Regional agreed to sell the four-acre property to the city for $2 million, but when the hospital started the process of transferring the deed, heirs to the original city hospital property owner raised some objections.

The heirs were upset the property, which was gifted to the city of Fayetteville, was being sold, so they took the issue to court. A lower court originally ruled in favor of the sale, but the heirs appealed it and the case has been tied up in litigation until it landed on the Arkansas Supreme Court docket.

"Three justices have said we support the lower court decisions and don't even want to look at the case," Johnson said. "But there are four of the judges who have seen something that has caught their attention that they're wanting to review it."

The court case has not stopped the library from working on expansion plans, Johnson said.

"The next steps are actually levying the bonds and actually working through the city and getting those tax revenues for us," Johnson said.

The Supreme Court will be back in session after Labor Day and Johnson said he expects a decision shortly thereafter. Johnson added the expansion plans will move forward even if the court rules to bar the sale of the property.

"Our architects, they've come back with some different concept designs for how we can grow to the south onto the city hospital property," Johnson said. "They've also got some concept designs for what we can do on this footprint."

Johnson said the other option for the hospital is to expand upwards.

The expansion is expected to be completed by fall 2020, but could be pushed back by the outcome of the Arkansas Supreme Court decision.