Rock Island preservationists push to save endangered courthouse

ROCK ISLAND -

Preservationists will be making a push to save the Rock Island County Courthouse in Springfield on Wednesday, April 25.  That's when the courthouse is likely to be named as one of the state's most endangered buildings.

"The building still has viability," said Linda Anderson, a member of the Rock Island Preservation Society. "It's still sound."

Just across the street from the century-old building, the group is displaying a sign that shows proposed renovations.

"Once it's gone, it's gone," she continued.

Preservationists like Anderson are suggesting that a public-private partnership could save the building during cash-strapped days in the county.

"We think it's such a historic building that it would be a shame to lose it to Rock Island County," she said.

County leaders know all about problems inside the courthouse.  With renovation estimates at some $16-million, it makes a decision on demolition more likely in May.

"I think nobody wants to do this," said Board Member Scott Terry.  "It's one of those things that people recognize, though, as the necessary step, the prudent step we need to take."

But Anderson suggests that a private company could possibly use historic tax credits to finance renovations, then rent it back to the county for offices.

"The building is not a safety hazard at this point," she continued.  "It's not falling down."

But there's no money at all for this in Rock Island County. In addition, funding used to build the new annex isn't eligible for use on courthouse renovations.

"Even if they tear it down, don't waste that space," advised Board Member Don Johnston.  "For $9-10 million, they can build offices for the rest of the county and put it right there."

At this point, Anderson hopes the Springfield event will draw attention to the building with a call for patience.

"As a gateway to the community, I think it's an important building," she concluded.

For more information on the preservation campaign: https://www.facebook.com/Rock-Island-Preservation-Society-RIPS-217315351628737/?ref=br_rs.