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Howard County records damaged by water

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On the stairs coming up from the courthouse basement where old county records have been moldering for years, State Historian Lisa Speer is dressed for working in the moldy air.

By Louie Graves
News-Leader staff

An electrical interruption during the night Wednesday, May 31, stopped the continuous pumping of water from the records storage space in the Howard County courthouse basement.

And ironically, a team of water damage specialists and the state historian came the next day to assess years and years of mold damage to some of the county’s oldest, irreplaceable records.

Dr. Lisa Speer, state historian and director of the Arkansas State Archives, said that some moldy records were beyond salvage. The records include big leather-bound books of ancient deeds, voter registration, adoptions, etc.

Dr. Speer said that from their two-day examination of the books, the specialists would determine how much it would take to preserve remaining county basement records. Dr. Speer said that her agency was paying for the visit by Tiffany Guzman and Debbie Tokarz of Metro Disaster Specialists.

The state agency will save the information of the records by digital photography.

County Judge Kevin Smith has said that possibly saving a part of the old Howard Memorial Hospital building could be a way of safely storing records. Even so, Dr. Speer said that the mold would continue its work consuming pages and bound volumes.

One metal file cabinet of records in the basement was rusted shut. “Those records inside are probably ruined,” Dr. Speer said, tugging on the cabinet door.

The county courthouse has historically had a wet basement.

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