The closed location of First Security Bank on West Center Street may be under consideration as a new “forever home” for the Beebe Water Department, but city officials want to see how much it would cost to build a brand-new facility instead.

Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson said at a recent special meeting of the City Council that he asked Beebe Water Department Manager Tommy Jackson and his staff to go look at the building at 400 W. Center St., and bring back an assessment on the size and if it met the department’s needs.

Jackson said the building, built almost 50 years ago, has a drive-through window, but it needs to be replaced.

“We were looking at some of the stuff outside,” he said. “All the facia boards are rotten; they need to be replaced and some work [that would to be] done inside. If we moved in there, we would basically have to try to make it work and that’s kind of what we run into where we are currently. We are making it work.

“It is not ideal, how we would really want it. Originally, our engineers came up with the number $700,000 to build a water office. We never intended to spend that kind of money on a water office when you could spend that out but that wasn’t our intention.”

Jackson said the price for the First Security location is $230,000. To upgrade the building, Jackson said the city could probably spend $40,000 or $50,000 on it and then would have to add some space onto the front of it so the department could build out.

He said if the city were to buy it, it would probably be the department’s “forever home.” He mentioned looking at how much money the city would have to put into the building vs. building something new. Jackson said it was built in 1973.

Council member Matt Dugger said the price of the building “seemed kind of steep, especially with us just acquiring land out here [24 acres off Mississippi Street by the community fishing pond]; that we would have the land to put our own building on, the way you all want it designed. I didn’t think it would cost that much because literally you are building an office building with a window where they can drive through.”

Dugger said to him the old bank building is in a good location. Jackson said it was 11,000 square feet and that would be enough room, “but it’s just the way some of the walls are configured in there.”

Council member Linda Anthony suggested that the council find out about square footage and how much it would cost for a building. Dugger said he wasn’t for the old building since he thinks the city can build something with that much money that “would be here forever; that’s just me.”

Beebe Water Office Manager Carol Onks said the majority of customers now use the drive through. Dugger asked how many residents pay water bills online and she said that is growing with probably “40 to 50 percent.”

Council member Tracy Lightfoot said it is a good building but the city needs to look at how much it would cost to build a new one and could compare the numbers.”My concern is that it’s going to stay empty for a very long time,” Lightfoot said. Dugger agreed.

Onks said the size of the building is about the same size of their current water office, but the “spacing is different.”

Robertson mentioned that the original asking price was $260,000. He said he sent an email on the price in regard to the age of the building and the cosmetic repairs and was given the “pretty firm” price of $230,000.21.

The water department is currently located at 27 U.S. Highway 64 W. The council’s next regular meeting is Monday at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 321 N. Elm St.

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