RICO residents can now weigh in on the fate of the county courthouse

People living in rock island county will be able to weigh in on what to do with the old county court house.

The county is considering some options it will bring to the table during the meeting but county board members want to hear from people living in the county first before deciding.

The the old courthouse is still in use until the new $28 million County Justice Center Annex is done next fall, 2018.

But the next big question is, what will the county to do with the old court house?

The courthouse doesn’t meet the state Supreme Court structural standards and has been falling apart for years. The building is 121 years old.

The county is considering how much it will cost to completely gut and rebuild the county courthouse for county offices, possible green space and/or commercial or industrial purposes.

Either way, all options come at a cost for the financially broke county.

Board member Don Johnston says the cost of re-furbishing the building – around $17 million, is cheaper than the cost of a brand-new building - around $72 million.

“Them we have to do the one thing that’s hard for all government is maintain what we build. That’s the problem that got us into this mess in the first place. Some people believe it was neglected but when money gets short the first thing you neglect is maintenance on county buildings and we’ve certainly done that over the years,” said Johnston.

County administrator, Dave Ross has proposed a three-fourth cents sales tax to pay for refurbishing the building but board member Don Johnston says a smaller tax increase would be more appealing to tax payers, especially since the state of Illinois is looking at raising income taxes.

The county is also considering a public-private partnership with developers that would turn the building into a tax-paying entity that could bring in money to the county.

“In Rock Island County, anything can happen. We will just have to wait and see. In my view, it will be mainly preservationists who want to save the court house rather than people who want to tear it down, saying ‘don’t raise my taxes, tear the damn thing down,’ but it costs money to do that too,” added Johnston.

County Administrator, Dave Ross says if the county decides to tear down the old court house, the funds would have to come from the Public Building Commission. Ross says there is no money left in that fund.

The meeting will be held during the county’s regular board meeting at the county offices (1504 Third Ave. Rock Island, IL) on July 18 at 5:30 p.m.