Hot Springs historic military hospital potential hazard after winter storm damage

The old army-navy hospital in downtown Hot Springs had several pipes burst during the winter weather storm, raising concern for city leaders.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — The old army-navy hospital had several pipes burst during the winter weather storm. This is a reminder for civic leaders of the dangers the empty building poses to downtown Hot Springs. Especially in the event of a fire.

Edward Davis is the fire chief for Hot Springs and says the sprinkler system was compromised because of the freezing weather. Pipes had burst in several places within the building. 

He says they had to shut the firewater off to the building meaning that if a fire occurred they’d have to recharge the system back on. which could cost precious minutes in an actual fire emergency. 

“We caught it early and so there’s not a lot large amount of damage to the structure. That’s the good thing about it and the great thing about that building is the bones of it are just so solid,” said Davis.

Michael White is a retired army colonel and on the chamber of commerce committee to save or repurpose the 31 buildings sitting on 21 acres. It’s currently owned by the state, but the deed to the state from the Department of Defense to the state in 1959 says the building can only be used for certain purposes.

Education, health or rehabilitation. If there’s no other use for that the building has to be turned back over to the army. The state is currently in the process of doing that.

“The best thing that could happen would be for the national park to take the property. It’s within the boundary of the national park and one of the provisions of the legislation was that the department of the interior had the right to take the property if it went back to federal ownership,” said White.

The state isn’t using it and the army has not accepted it. 

According to White, the army says it doesn’t have the money to do its due diligence with inspections and the paperwork necessary to take the property over to the general service administration for disposal as excess federal property. 

“The longer the property sits vacant, the more of a potential threat of damage to the national park due to fire. Buildings that sit vacant deteriorate rapidly and like the Majestic, it would become a potential fire hazard.

White said the pipes bursting were a red flag.

Davis says he’d like to see something be done with the building.

“The thing that we need to do is we need to act. Hot Springs, Garland County, the state of Arkansas, and to what extent the federal government can find a tenant for it, and make that something useful to the state,” said Davis.