Paragould beautification project uncovers basement beneath the sidewalk

Paragould beautification project uncovers basement beneath the sidewalk

Construction crews in Paragould made an interesting find during a beautification project. Now, they want to know what else might be buried beneath downtown.

For weeks, the crews have been working along Pruett Street in downtown Paragould. Heavy machinery is on hand to help them tear out the old sidewalks to replace with new sidewalks. But last week, the sidewalk removal uncovered something very old.

"When they pulled the concrete of the sidewalk up, there was a basement underneath the sidewalk," Paragould Mayor Mike Gaskill said.

Unbeknownst to many, that sidewalk has served as part of a basement ceiling for years.

"Any time you do construction, there's always something that pops up and you say man, I didn't know that was coming!" Mayor Gaskill told Region 8 News.

Mayor Gaskill said years ago, he considered turning the building into City Hall. During a tour of the building, even went into the basement.

"But I didn't know I was under the sidewalk...kindly a surprise to me too," Gaskill said.

It wasn't a surprise to everyone though, especially Bill Fisher.

Region 8 News asked Fisher what his first thoughts were when he heard the news.

"Someone really hadn't been in the basement and looked to see exactly what had happened because it's been that way since the time the building was originally built," Fisher said.

For decades, Fisher worked at 101 West Court Street. He served as bank president of what was then Security Bank. Fisher explained that years ago, that basement held the bank vault.

"And the basement was not enough room for all the storage records and things and they extended the original building out to the street so there's a section of it, probably 15-20 feet that was underneath the sidewalk," Fisher said.

Now it houses the phone system for Sub Teach USA.

Though engineers solved the problem and the hole was quickly covered back up, there are concerns that more history might be uncovered as Paragould continues to beautify the downtown area.

"This part of the town is over 100 years old so we could very well run into something as we get down the street," Mayor Gaskill said.

Mayor Gaskill and Main Street Paragould are now working with business owners on Pruett to find out ahead of time where possible basements or tunnels might be.

As for the phone system Sub Teach, it was disrupted for a short while but is back to normal now.

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