Courthouse committee issues statement after $1 million investment by legislature



April 1, 2024


From the Itty Bitty Courthouse Committee

Lee Ann Jessee, Shannon Sexton, Sharon Burton


$1 Million Awarded by Kentucky Legislature for Renovation of Historic Adair County Courthouse

The $1 million allocation from the Kentucky legislature for the renovation of the historic Adair County courthouse is exciting news for our community. This significant funding is a testament to the dedication and hard work of numerous local citizens who have tirelessly advocated for the preservation of this landmark over the past two decades.

The effort to renovate the courthouse dates back well before 2009 when the last public office was moved from the courthouse to the annex building. The Adair County Fiscal Court worked with the Adair Heritage Association to consider the future use of the building and searched for ways to fund needed repairs.

It was determined that the original building, constructed in 1885, remains structurally sound. However, the additions built in 1974 were currently in a state of disrepair. As a result, the organization recommended that it would be financially prudent in the long term to demolish the wings while focusing on repairing the historic portion of the building.

The historic building sat empty for a number of years with no funding available to make the needed improvements.

In 2019, magistrate Daryl Flatt asked us (Lee Ann Jessie, Shannon Sexton and Sharon Burton) to look into funding options for the courthouse. We agreed and began researching what might be available. We considered grants, local fundraising, and looked into an earlier effort to get the project on a list for the National Guard to take down the 1974 additions. We also spoke with Sen. Max Wise and Rep. Bam Carney.

Sen. Wise and Rep. Carney made a commitment at that time to help seek funding for this project and were already working toward that goal when Rep. Carney became ill. That was 2019; Sen. Wise has reminded us since then that he had not forgotten the commitment and continued to work for us. Rep. Sarge Pollock, who served Adair County for a short time, and later Rep. Amy Neighbors also made a commitment to help fund the project.

Of course, the legislature’s priorities soon changed as the world faced a pandemic with Covid-19, and the courthouse project sat idle for a short time.

When the fiscal court received funds from the America Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the court began considering a number of large projects they needed to address but lacked funding for. At the same time, the courthouse literally had pieces falling off into the roadway. Something had to be done.

The fiscal court set aside $500,000 for the courthouse project and asked us to oversee the efforts. We began calling ourselves the “itty bitty courthouse committee” and went to work. The majority of that $500,000 was used to take down the 1974 additions and replace windows – the window portion of the project is still underway.

Earlier this year the City of Columbia stepped in and committed $32,000 for the restoration of the iconic clock tower atop the historic courthouse. That project, spearheaded by volunteer Charles Grimsley, is also underway.

As local efforts drew attention once again to the historic courthouse, Sen. Wise and Rep. Neighbors continued their efforts on the state level, and suddenly, the timing was perfect. The legislature passed a $2.7 billion one-time investment bill (HB 1) and the historic courthouse project was included!

We want to thank everyone who has been involved in this effort. First and foremost, of course, thank you to Sen. Wise, who made this happen and has been diligent in his unwavering commitment. Thank you to Rep. Amy Neighbors for picking up the torch after the passing of our friend, Bam Carney. We know Bam would be thrilled with this funding allocation and appreciate Rep. Neighbors for keeping the project alive in the House. Thank you to Daryl Flatt, who recognized the opportunity to get this project moving again in recent years. We thank the county judge executive and entire fiscal court, the current and previous administrations. The courthouse project has had their unanimous support since we became involved, and we are confident this funding would not have happened without that support. We want to thank community members who worked on this project long before we did. They built the foundation that led to this victory, and without their hard work over the years we would not have had the preparation in place to make such a request for funding. We relied on their research and knowledge to move this project forward.

There is still plenty of work to be done. We look forward to working with the fiscal court to invest this funding wisely as we bring the historic courthouse back to life.

S/Itty Bitty Courthouse Committee

Lee Ann Jessee

Shannon Sexton

Sharon Burton


 (Editor's note for openness and transparency: The Sharon Burton involved in this project is publisher and editor of the Community Voice.)

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