The Booneville Human Development Center hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday for two new residential living areas.


The center, which was converted from the Arkansas Tuberculosis Sanatorium in 1973, is one of five residential facilities in the state for adults with intellectual disabilities. Although the number of residents will stay the same, they will have a new facility to replace the old space.


Arkansas Department of Human Services Secretary Cindy Gillespie opened the ceremony by saying the project was 10 years in the making and commended the staff for their "love...care and courage" to help the residents.


There are currently 120 residents at the Booneville Human Development Center. It is licensed for 138 residents.


The project is set to be completed in April 2021 and Gillespie said she would be back to see the finished product. No state budget increase was requested to build each of $1.6 million buildings, a DHS spokesperson stated. Each building will hold eight residents. Phase II of construction calls for an additional building. Residents will also be placed in the current facility once construction is completed.


Logan County Judge Ray Gack stated that "not only is it a good day for BHDC, but it’s a good day for Logan County." Gack noted that this would make people "take pride in their work" because it would mean jobs in Logan County.


All in attendance expressed how good this project was for the center and the city.


Booneville Mayor Jerry Wilkins told history of struggling for funding, but expressed excitement on having funds to build new dorms to better the life of the residents. Wilkins also noted that building the new facilities provided a sense of security.


Board Member Sally Hardin had a personal reason to be thankful for the new facility.


"You’re the reason my Alice can live here and be healthy and safe and know that she is loved," Hardin said to the center’s staff. "If it wasn’t for you guys, we wouldn’t be here."


Hardin went on to acknowledge the difficulty of the staff’s jobs in taking care of the center’s residents and facilities.


The groundbreaking comes more than a decade after attempts were made to shut the facility down and it represents a new chapter in the life of the center.