The mold problem in the landmark five-story building in downtown Harrison has been practically cleared up and it cost much less than expected, the new owner said.
In August 2018, mold was discovered in the tower on what was then the North Arkansas College Center Campus. The college moved employees out of most of the tower and began looking at options for remediation.
Officials said estimates for total remediation ranged from $4 million to $10 million. They then began looking at alternatives that would see the Durand Center and the landmark tower viable for the future.
After no serious offers to take over the tower, it was put up for sale. Jeff Crockett offered $712,500 for the property, along with a pledge to continue to operate the Durand Center as conference space and rehab the tower as well.
That offer was accepted and the deal was closed Aug. 31.
Crockett told the Daily Times that the tower was stripped down to sheetrock walls and cleaned. Enviro-Air out of Springfield, Missouri, spent about three-and-a-half weeks cleaning out ventilation ducts and air handlers.
Afterward, a company was brought in to inspect and detected mold in three rooms. Crockett said they told him that removing carpeting and thoroughly cleaning the room should fix the mold problem once the windows are replaced.
And the windows were likely a big part of the problem from the start.
As it turns out, the windows from the second floor and higher floors were designed to be opened, possibly for cleaning purposes.
“The seals on them, over the last 40 years, went bad and any time we had a driving rain the water just ran in the windows,” he said.
So, seams on the windows were sealed with heavy-duty duct tape temporarily until all the windows can be replaced.
Harrison Glass workers were at the tower Friday and are supposed to start replacing the windows next week. Crockett said that’s estimated to take about three weeks.
Although Crockett didn’t want to say how much he will have invested in the rehabilitation of the tower, he said it was significantly lower than the millions estimated when the college owned the building.
He said private businesses can sometimes get competitive bids to reduce the cost on a project.
“I think contractors have a tendency to try to take advantage of public entities because they think they have bottomless pockets,” Crockett said, although he also allowed that some of their bidding guidelines could be more difficult for public entities.
There is still work to be done — he said the boiler that services the tower is the one originally installed in 1979 — but he hopes to have the facility open as soon as possible.