The Judge Isaac C. Parker Federal Building in Fort Smith and several other courthouses in the Western District of Arkansas are receiving security upgrades with exterior renovations.
The federal courthouse and former U.S. Post Office at 30 N. Sixth St. in Fort Smith has a brick “stem wall” mostly completed to keep drivers off the courthouse lawn and away from the building.
“It’s not just for aesthetics,” said Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Dewaine Allen. “People were jumping the curb and driving up to the front door.”
The low brick wall is also intended to stop vehicular traffic along the broad sidewalk between the federal building and the Hanna Oil & Gas offices.
“You can't just drive up to the front door of a federal facility anymore,” Allen states in a news release. “And while it's unfortunate, those are the times we live in."
In addition to protection of federal judges, jurors and the general public, the U.S. Marshals Service is tasked with protecting the physical structure of a federal courthouse, Allen added.
Public utilities, including a large gas main, also surround the federal facility, Allen noted. Protecting tenants and the public from accidental vehicular impact with the utilities is "imperative," Allen added.
The construction budget for the Fort Smith project, which is expected to be completed in November, is about $900,000. Costs for the federal courthouse in Fayetteville are about $1 million due to more fencing and larger gates, Allen explained. The contractor selected for the job by the General Services Administration was WB Construction of from St. Peters, Mo. Local contractors have also been used for work.
Allen said the Marshals Service has been pleased with the work and the job has benefited the local economy.
The federal court facilities in El Dorado and Texarkana will have security enhancements ramp up once the Fort Smith and Fayetteville projects are completed.
Allen pointed out that due to the historic value of each federal courthouse in the Western District, “every attempt was made to comply with historical requirements.”