May 23, 2007 Edition

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Budget committee
discusses 'Hut' building

Bob Cole (right) of Cole Furniture discusses leasing the former Hutcherson building with Justices Junior Briner and Dean Davis following a budget committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
Amber Adams
Staff Writer

The Lawrence County Quorum Court budget committee met Tuesday afternoon to discuss possible uses for the former Hutcherson building, which was given to the county last summer.

Bob Cole, owner of Cole Furniture, expressed interest in renting the building during the regular Quorum Court meeting last week, saying he plans to relocate the store currently in Jonesboro.

Members of the budget committee discussed utilizing the building for courtroom or offices.

"We are the only county in Northeast Arkansas without two courtrooms," said Justice Jim Jones.

He added that the courtroom is overbooked being used by Judge Hayes, Judge Smith and Judge Erwin, and that one group is often bumped to allow for another.

Sheriff Dan Ellison raised concerns about security risks, personnel shortages and transportation issues if the courtroom were in a separate building than the jail.

"It would be a nightmare for the sheriff's department," he said.

Concerns were also raised about parking problems.

It was decided that while the court works on a feasibility study for putting a courtroom and/or offices in the building, it could be rented out, pending approval from the Attorney General's office.

Judge Alex Latham informed the committee that he has a letter ready to send to the Attorney General's office requesting an official opinion on whether or not the county can rent the building.

While waiting on a reply, the committee will start working on a lease with Bob Cole for the building.

A three year lease was discussed, which would include a 90-day opt out.

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