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story.lead_photo.caption Farmers Bank & Trust finalizes an agreement Wednesday with the Hempstead County Quorum Court to sell its main bank building in Hope, Ark., for $1.5 million. The bank building will be converted into a courthouse, Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse said. Photo by Jim Williamson / Texarkana Gazette.

Farmers Bank & Trust finalized an agreement with the Hempstead County Quorum Court on Wednesday to sell its main bank building in Hope, Ark., for $1.5 million.

 

The building is at 200 E. Third St. in the downtown area of Hope. The market value of the building makes the transaction equivalent to a $3 million donation from Farmers Bank & Trust to Hempstead County to use as a courthouse.

"We are grounded in our presence within Hope and Hempstead County. However, the current bank building was larger than needed and the county was exploring options for a new courthouse. We hope that our building transfer will serve as a win-win situation for the staff and residents of Hempstead County and our company, said Bob Burns, FB&T chairman of the board and a Hope native.

A two-story Christmas tree decorates the lobby of the Farmers Bank & Trust building in Hope, Ark., The bank sold the building Wednesday to Hempstead County. The building will be converted into a county courthouse.
Photo by Jim Williamson/Texarkana Gazette.

"We're excited with the plans, and the building looks like a courthouse," said Bruce Maloch, vice chairman and general counsel for Farmers Bank & Trust.

The bank plans to transition all offices at 200 E. Third St. to a new location to be built across the street. The new location will continue to provide all current financial services, including lock boxes as well as loan and account services.

Farmers Bank & Trust has two other office locations in Hope at 617 N. Hervey and 2103 S. Main. The bank does not have plans to make any changes to either location.

Moving the courthouse downtown to the bank building will help revitalize the town, said Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse.

The majority of courthouses in Southwest Arkansas were built during the 1930s by the Work Projects Administration, and signs of age are surfacing.

The county faces the quandary of repairing and upgrading the courthouse building to meet national building standards or purchasing an existing, newer building with fewer maintenance problems, said Morse.

The existing courthouse has asbestos and roof leaks. It also is not in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act standards for bathrooms. When the courthouse was built in 1939, the standards didn't exist.

Hempstead County Judge Haskell Morse, left, signs documents with Bruce Maloch, vice chairman of Farmers Bank & Trust, center, to conclude the purchase of the bank building to be used as a courthouse. Patricia J. Harris, far right, directs the signing. She is the closing agent and co-owner of the Hempstead County Title Co.
Photo by Jim Williamson/Texarkana Gazette.

After construction is completed on the new bank building, the courthouse offices will be moved into the new courthouse facility.

The construction will take an estimated 16 to 18 month to complete the new bank building said Morse.

The Farmers Bank building has 36,000 square feet of floor space compared to the exiting courthouse, which has 33,000 square feet.

The courthouse has 88 parking spaces, while the bank building has 95 off-street parking spaces.

Farmers Bank & Trust is a 111-year-old community bank owned by the privately held holding company Magnolia Banking Corp., headquartered in Magnolia, Ark. Farmers Bank & Trust now has more than 20 locations in Arkansas and Texas, and more than $1.35 billion in assets. Farmers offers a full range of deposit services, trust and investment management services, as well as business, commercial real estate, construction, mortgage, residential and consumer loans. The website is MyFarmers.Bank.

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