Hug the Courthouse celebrates historic structure’s upcoming interior renovation

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Those participating in the Hug the Courthouse event on Monday gathered on the steps for a group photograph.

Those participating in the Hug the Courthouse event on Monday gathered on the steps for a group photograph. See LeAnne Akin’s photo gallery from the kickoff of promotion of the Heritage Celebration below.

State Rep. Tommy Benton said those whose hearts were broken when Jackson County moved operations out of the historic downtown courthouse will be celebrating the impending start of renovation on the structure’s interior.

Benton spoke at Monday’s “Hug the Courthouse” event which was coordinated by the Jackson County Historic Courthouse Restoration Committee, chaired by Charlotte Mealor.

Mealor welcomed a crowd of nearly 50 who arrived to show support for the historic structure and the ongoing restoration effort. She said the event was serving as the kickoff for the upcoming Oct. 19 Heritage Celebration. Reservations are now being taken for the fundraising celebration.

District 3 Commissioner Bruce Yates said the Jackson County Historic Courthouse represents the past of the community and its future will be important because of the restoration efforts now taking place.

Yates said the county found funds to stop the deterioration of the historic structure and the committee is leading the community foward in the effort to be a part of the continuing work.

District 4 Commissioner Dwain Smith also attended.

“Since the new courthouse was built in 2004, the historic building has remained empty, but maintained by the Building and Grounds Department. Early in 2007, the Board of Commissioners voted to set aside $2 million in bond funds for restoration/renovations,” the county’s website says.

Now the next chapter in the renovation will be getting under way.

County Manager Kevin Poe provided an update on the bids currently being received on the first interior renovation phase. Architect Gene Barrington and Don Clerici of BM&K are working with the county on the project.

For Barrington, it’s been a six-year wait to move forward on the interior work. Delays in state funding and projects approvals have held up work.

Poe said bids will be opened Sept. 13 and it is hoped that a recommendation will be made to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners at the first meeting of October. By keeping that schedule, a contractor could be at work inside the courthouse by the end of October.

Hug the Historic Courthouse

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Charlotte Mealor, who chairs the Jackson County Historic Courthouse Restoration Committee, welcome the crowd to the Hug the Courthouse event.
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Charlotte Mealor is the longtime chairwoman of the Jackson County Historic Courthouse Restoration Committee
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District 3 County Commissioner Bruce Yates said the courthouse holds a special place in Jackson County history.
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Jackson County Manager Kevin Poe gave the timeline for bids to be received and opened in hopes that the award of the project can be made in time to have the contractor at work by the end of October.
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State Rep. Tommy Benton said work on the courthouse interior will be a welcomed project for those whose hearts were broken when the county moved operations into the new courthouse.
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Committee member Len Sturkie put “I Hugged the Courthouse” stickers on the youngest participants, 7-year-old Cap Benson, and 4-year-old Ford Benson.
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