’38 building faces demolition

PARAGOULD — A downtown Paragould organization has until Jan. 31, 2018, to find a buyer for the 79-year-old City Light and Water building or see it demolished.

“We’ve lost a lot of historical buildings in Paragould over the years,” said Gina Jarrett, director of Main Street Paragould Inc. “The thought of losing another is heartbreaking.”

The city-owned utility plans to bulldoze the building if someone doesn’t buy and restore it, said Paragould Light, Water and Cable manager Darrell Phillips. He gave Jarrett six months to locate a buyer. City workers will clean debris left inside the building within a week. Once the cost of the cleanup is determined, the city will set a price for the building, Jarrett said.

The two-story, 10,000-square-foot brick building is just west of Union Pacific railroad tracks along North Second Avenue. Four turbines were once housed inside, generating power for the Greene County city.

Now, the building sits empty. Most of the panes in its arched windows are broken, and doors are missing. A fire ravaged the building in 2013, blackening the brick walls and scorching beams across the roof.

Someone dumped a large pile of debris in an open area inside a main room, and a small tree grows out of a mound of dirt where the turbines sat. Clothing and trash litter some of the other rooms, indicative of transients living inside the building, Jarrett said.

The only reminders that it once served as a power plant are the log sheets bearing the utility company’s name that are scattered on the floor.

The building, referred to by locals as the “power plant,” was constructed in 1938 after voters approved a bond issue in 1933 to build it.

Workers installed the first electric generators in May 1938, and in January 1939 two of the four turbines went into service, powering the city’s water pumping station and its street lights.

The power plant also served as a reminder for youngsters to go home at imposed curfew times,…

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