County government in Van Buren County will persevere through a Wednesday night fire that completely destroyed its county government building and nearly all of its contents.
“It is almost unimaginable,” said Van Buren County Mayor Greg Wilson of the scope of the blaze that decimated the government building in Spencer late Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. “It is a total loss.”
The administrative building, located at 500 College Street in Spencer, housed most county offices including offices of property assessor, trustee, election administrator, mayor, and the historical society. Vital county records such as deeds were backed up in Nashville, but many historical items not backed up were lost.
“Old deeds, maps and archives are gone forever,” Wilson said.
Firefighters battled the stubborn blaze for 15 hours, from Wednesday night well into Thursday. The cause of the fire is under investigation but many suspect an electronic problem sparked the blaze in the 61-year-old building. The fire likely began in the north end of the building around the election office.
With the loss of their crucial government offices, Wilson said county officials met Thursday night in an emergency meeting and came up with a temporary plan to get county government going again. According to Wilson, the county mayor’s office will be temporarily located on the top level of Spencer Civic Center.
The offices of register of deeds, property assessor, clerk and trustee will be on the bottom floor of the Civic Center. The election commission will be housed at Van Buren County Courthouse, while the office of veteran affairs and UCHRA will operate out of the old city hall in Spencer. The phone numbers will remain the same.
“We want to thank Ray Cantrell and Ben Lomand for working so hard to get us back going so we can serve the people,” Wilson said.
The housing arrangement is a temporary plan. Wilson, who took office in September, said he will have to work with the Van Buren County Commission to determine what path to follow for permanent housing of the county offices.
“The people of Van Buren County are resilient and strong,” Wilson said. “The county offices will open on schedule Monday morning.”