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Restoration underway on Benton County Courthouse clock

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VINTON — A piece of history is coming back to life in Benton County.

The heavy equipment pulled up to the courthouse Wednesday, and people gathered to watch.

“I like to watch those people. They are very good at what they do,” said Bob LeGrange.

The clock at the top of the old building is something that hasn’t caught anyone’s attention in years, but suddenly it had everyone’s attention.

The time has finally come.

Crews are beginning the process of fixing up the century-old courthouse clock.

“Nobody knows for sure when it quit running. We think in maybe the late 70s or early 80s,” said Benton County Supervisor Terry Hertle.

“It rang and rang and people looked at it and heard it and kept time by it for years and years and years. So, it’s important from a historical perspective to have it back working again,” said clock task force member Kent Stufflebeam.

A crew from Smith’s Bell and Clock Service from Mooresville, Indiana was hired to do the restoration work. The crew climbed to the very top floor of the building to take apart all of the gears and levers. Then, they traced the window panes to get the exact shape for the replacement pieces.

Finally, the workers lowered each section of the old clock out of the courthouse and into a truck.

“We’ll just take everything back (to Indiana). We put it through a cooking process where it takes all the oil and residue off it. We go through and sand blast all the metal [and] we polish all the brass,” said Job Foreman with Smith’s Bell and Clock Service, Jeremy Frodge.

The bell and clock service will repair and reuse all of the original pieces as much as possible. The goal is to make it look just like it did when it was installed in the courthouse in the early 1900s.

Many said they were excited to see the work unfolding before them.

A group of dedicated Benton County residents formed a task force at the beginning of the year to organize the project and find funding.

“I was really surprised that we raised all the money — completed the fundraising in six months,” Hertle said.

“The money just started rolling in. Actually we had to shut it off, the money kept coming after we got enough,” Stufflebeam said.

The task force raised more than $70,000 which included state grant money.

After years of sitting in disrepair, people watching said they were excited to eventually hear the familiar sound of the bell and see the clock working again.

Many agree it’s a project that makes up for lost time.

“I think there’s a lot of people looking forward to this for a long, long time,” Hertle said.

Hertle said the plan was to reinstall the clock around Thanksgiving.

As the repairs on the clock are happening, someone also will be working to clean up the bell that still sits at the top of the courthouse.