By Steve Barnes
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - Rats have been evicted from the Arkansas governor's mansion but the lingering effects of a rodent infestation, including noxious odors, require its study to be demolished and rebuilt, officials said this week.
The rodents, in a non-partisan manner, have been a problem for former Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat who served from 2007 to 2015, and for current Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who has served since then.
"You can walk in (the study) today and still smell the rat stench. It looks fine, but it's hideous smelling," current first lady Susan Hutchinson told a commission on the mansion this week, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
The vermin nested in the walls of the governor’s home office until Beebe summoned exterminators. The odors emanate from remaining rat feces and corpses.
The first lady is helping secure a $1.1 million grant from the Arkansas Natural Resources Council for structural improvements to the 66-year-old mansion, including more than $60,000 to repair the governor’s study, a preservation official said.
A spokesman for the governor said the rats had created more than cosmetic problems.
"They caused some structural damage, gnawing at joists and sub flooring,” said J.R. Davis, the incumbent governor’s press secretary.
The white-columned Georgian mansion, completed in 1950, rests on eight acres in Little Rock’s historic Quapaw Quarter neighborhood. The governor’s study and its adjoining conference room are contained in a semi-detached building formerly used as a guest house.
(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Cynthia Osterman)