Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of the top 10 local news stories from 2017, as chosen by the Commercial staff.
After almost three years of legal wrangling between the owner of a collapsed building downtown and the city, demolition was completed earlier this year, but it was not until the end of November that a state court said the action was proper. Garland Trice and his battles were voted the number six story of 2017 in the Commercial’s Top 10.
The problems with Trice started on July 25, 2014, when a portion of the third-floor roof of the building, located at 620 S. Main St., collapsed and sent bricks and mortar toppling onto Main Street.
A section of Main Street, which is also a state highway, was closed for more than two years while Trice’s case made its way through the court system — first in Pine Bluff District Court, and when the ruling went against him, to Circuit Court for an appeal, where Judge Jodi Raines Dennis found him guilty of failing to abate a nuisance. Trice then appealed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals, and in November, the state court also found him guilty.
Before the court rulings, Trice had contended that he wanted to repair the building, but city officials did not approve his plan. That plan called spending between 26 and 38 months, but city officials rejected it because professional contractors and building inspectors determined that the building was structurally unsound and contained unsupported walls.
On April 19, Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington ordered the building be torn down after Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell declared it was hazardous to life and property.
In his appeal to the Arkansas Court of Appeals, Trice contended that the Historical District Commission and not the Pine Bluff City Council, which had previously placed the building on the condemned list, had jurisdiction over the property. The court ruling said Trice was incorrect. Associate Justice Bart Virden said the issues with the building went beyond its character and into the safety of the public and the authority to determine the status of the building was up to the city.
Before it was torn down, Trice’s building dropped bricks repeatedly onto an office building at 618 Main St. that is owned by Main Street Development LLC. The company’s majority owner, Lloyd Lee, said bricks fell on at least two occasions.
Lee’s property will become the site of the new Pine Bluff/Jefferson County Main Library, with construction expected to begin in 2018.