Judge says he’s moving forward with plans to raze the county courthouse

ROCK ISLAND - A Rock Island County judge says he is moving ahead with plans to tear down the old courthouse.

"It's what's best for the project," said Chief Judge Walter Braud, with the 14th Judicial Circuit.

"The Chief Judge is protected in his right to manage courthouses. That means, he can build them, he can erect them, and he can tear them down," Judge Braud said.

He says he intends to draft a letter asking the county board to authorize the Public Building Commission to raze the 121-year-old structure.

"If they won't do what I think needs to be done I have the power under the law, to issue an order, an administrative order to say, you will tear it down," Judge Braud said, noting he likely will send the formal letter next week.

He estimates the cost to restore the building would total about 22 million dollars, and says the time has come to let it go.

"Rock Island deserves a beautiful building and it should not be shrouded behind an ugly, old, vacant, decrepit, mess," he said.

County Board member Don Johnston, who has butted heads with the judge in the past, says not so fast.

"The judge doesn't have a vote. He's not on the county board. He's not even on the Building Commission. How does he have authority over this? My position is going to be this county is going to be responsible for the things it is by statute, responsible for," Johnston said, adding the board will likely discuss the courthouse at its next committee of the whole meeting next week.

"It's going to have to stand up and tell this judge to lay off."