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Kensett accepts bids for fire cleanup

By Jeanni Brosius

This article was originally published October 4, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. Updated October 3, 2012 at 10:22 a.m.


From the left, Jason Gilkey with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality; Steve Brown, superintendent of Kensett Water and Sewer; and Esetelene Sebourn, who owns one of the burned buildings, talk about the process for removing debris left after a fire destroyed several buildings in downtown Kensett.

— A fire in January destroyed four buildings in downtown Kensett. One of those buildings housed the district courtroom and the Kensett City Council’s chambers. Now, the small White County town is preparing to clean up the site and possibly rebuild, thanks to a grant from the Delta Regional Authority that will close the gap between the insurance money and the cost of the cleanup.

The city will receive a $60,000 grant from the authority; then the city will put $6,000 toward the cleanup project.

“It’s to clean up the asbestos primarily,” Kensett Mayor Max McDonald said. “We’ll clean up the debris and the brick walls, and everything will be cleaned down to the concrete.”

The city will begin accepting bids for the cleanup this week; then the City Council will determine if rebuilding is an option, McDonald said.

“We have an emergency contingency fund for disaster situations, such as the fire that destroyed those buildings,” said Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman for the Delta Regional Authority. “That’s a very important building to the community.”

Masingill said one of the reasons the DRA decided to invest in the Kensett buildings is that local government is a vital part of a community.

“It’s the local essence of the community,” he said. “Local government has an effect on economic development. … When tragedy breaks down our public buildings’ infrastructure, we must be diligent in rebuilding our institutions, thus supporting economic growth. Investing in the removal of this hazardous waste paves the way for the city of Kensett to get back to business: creating good-paying jobs and growing the economy of the Delta region.”

After the fire, the City Council held meetings in the Fellowship Hall at First Baptist Church on Wilbur Mills Avenue. The district court has been holding hearings at the White County Law Enforcement Center in Searcy.

“We don’t want to have to impose on anyone else to have a place to meet,” McDonald said about the advantage of rebuilding. “We don’t have it in the budget. We may have to apply for more grant money. We also have to replace all the furnishings, including the judge’s bench.”

Masingill said that without the help of the DRA grant, the cleanup and rebuilding wouldn’t have been an option for the city.

McDonald said the cause of the fire was ruled undetermined by the Arkansas State Police fire marshal.

Staff writer Jeanni Brosius can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or


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