Rock Island County's courthouse is "collapsing from within"
January 16, 2013
Rock Island County is stuck with a "completely antiquated and dilapidated" courthouse. That's according to Jeffery O'Connor, Chief Judge of Illinois' 14th Judicial Circuit. After hearing from him Tuesday night, the county board approved a referendum that might pave the way for building a new courthouse.
O'Connor says technically the question is whether the public building commission's authority should include other buildings besides the jail. Illinois law allows counties to create building commissions, but it's the county board that makes policy decisions.
"Once it's determined a building is needed, and we're not there yet. Although I'd strongly argue this building is rotting around our ankles. The county board would give the public building commission its marching orders. Then the commission's job is to raise money, preliminary in nature because, in fact, until you hire architects and engineers, no one knows what is needed."
Judge O'Connor wants residents to see the condition of the courthouse up close, so he plans to offer tours.
"There are engineering studies that it's not ADA compliant, it's not up to any kind of code whatsoever, fire code, power code. There's no fire alarm, no sprinkler system. Everything you can imagine from a 116 year old building is sitting there. You know, it's got two-foot stone walls. Anyone thinks they're going to go in and renovate that. The heating system is archaic. There've been fires in elevators, roof leaks, mold infestations."
The Rock Island County Courthouse has been in use continuously since it was built in 1896. The public building referendum will be on the ballot in the April 9th election.