Construction on the Rock Island County Justice Center Annex is about three to five weeks ahead of schedule, according to 14th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Walter Braud.
“Every time I come to work, there’s more steel in the air, there’s more concrete being poured, people are flying around doing things,” Braud said. “You can just see this building just growing.”
Braud and Richard Fisher, chair of the Rock Island County Public Building Commission, provided an update on the annex construction in a news release sent this week to the Rock Island County board, elected officials, the city of Rock Island, and judges in the 14th Judicial Circuit.
Construction on the three-story addition at the Justice Center, 1317 3rd Ave, Rock Island, officially began in March and is slated to be completed and ready for occupancy by November 2018.
The annex will replace the 121-year-old courthouse, 210 15th St., and house the offices of the State’s Attorney and Circuit Clerk, judges’ chambers and administrative officers for the judicial system.
It will also feature one public entryway that will serve as the screening point for all visitors to the Justice Center, annex and the jail, four non-jury courtrooms, and a publicly accessible law library where people wishing to represent themselves can perform legal research and electronically file documents.
This month, foundations were completed and steel erection is in progress, according to the release. The annex will be enclosed for interior work in December, according to the release.
They said in the release that the project is “safely under the $28 million” budgeted for the project.
A ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for Dec. 1, 2018, according to the release.
Braud said Wednesday that good weather helped keep the project ahead of schedule, as well as the “uncommon skill of the people building the building.”
He said the architecture firm that design the building, DLR Group of Chicago, spent “hours and hours” talking to the sheriff, circuit clerk, judges, the state’s attorney, and others as they designed the building so that they did not have to change any plans.
The firm also has hardly had any change orders, which can impact construction, Braud said.
The project’s contractor, Gilbane Building Co., Chicago, also has worked efficiently and has kept the project ahead of schedule, he said.
According to the release, a campus arrangement is desirable because it is convenient for the public and offers enhanced operating efficiencies and security.
County finances do not allow for completion of the campus at the present time, but the new annex entrance is strategically positioned to serve as the common public entrance for the complex and future building additions, according to the release.
Rock Island County courts process more than 400 cases per week involving up to 1,000 people.
The county has not yet decided what it will do with the old courthouse, which was built in 1896.
Braud said the old courthouse presented such a health and safety hazard that “it just had to end.”
“We still every day hope that this is not the day that something bad is going to happen,” he said. “We have a very short window now so we’re very hopeful and very happy.”
Once the move from the old courthouse is completed next year, the building will cease to be a courthouse and Sheriff Gerry Bustos will no longer legally control it and will stop maintaining it, according to the release.
The proximity of the courthouse to the annex creates a “significant security and safety risk” for the annex and its users, according to the release.
The Public Building Commission has earmarked funds within the construction budget to perform asbestos abatement and to raze the old courthouse, according to the release.
Braud said that from his and the Public Building Commission’s perspective, the county board needs to make a decision about the old courthouse “within the next three or four months because it affects what some of the plans are in terms of going forward.”