Rock Island County courthouse fate is still undetermined… here’s why

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -- A decision on what will become of the Rock Island County Courthouse remained up in the air after a monthly board committee meeting.

On Monday, April 9th, a proposal with a demolition plan was presented to the Governance, Health, and Administration Committee.  The proposal suggested that the Public Building Commission would tear down the 120-year-old structure and take care of landscaping.

Three board members, Cecelia O'Brien, Mike Steffen, and Drue Mielke turned the proposal down, according to Mielke.  He said his reasoning was based on seeking clarity that the money being used was indeed authorized for this intended purpose.

"I just want to know, can we spend bond money that was for the annex to the justice center on on buildings like the county office building? Can we spend money from the bond to tear down the courthouse?" asked Mielke.   The bonds he's referring to are from the Public Building Commission.  He said they have the power to declare bonds, which the county then leases from the commission and then pays back.

Related: Letter to board from Chief Judge courthouse: "Razing needs to happen" 

One of the board members who voted in favor of the proposal, Patrick Moreno, said he did so not because he was 100% satisfied with it, but so that it would be opened up to further discussion with the Committee of the Whole at their meeting Wednesday.

Moreno said that with the new courthouse not being done until November, he figured they had plenty of time to find the best solution.  He said he wanted to provide an opportunity for someone to come up with a plan for the building, and if not then settle on a demolition.

Board member Scott Terry, who said he voted in favor of the proposal, said he is concerned that the money available for the demolition may not be around forever, and he thinks its important to nab it while it's being offered.

The proposal stated that the courthouse is decrepit and too expensive to fix.  It has been estimated that renovation costs would start at $16 million.  The estimated cost to demolish was $1.5 million.  It also said efforts had been made to raise the funds to repair it, but no realistic solution had been presented to salvage the building.

Construction to attach an annex to the existing jail started in April of 2017. Once it's complete, the facility is set to take on most of the departments housed by the current courthouse.

Click here to read the proposed Intergovernmental Agreement that was up for a vote Monday.