The special committee formed to consider options for a new Rock Island County Courthouse wants its design company to come up with alternatives that would lower the price of the project.  

“We’re still trying to get with CGL (Carter Goble Lee) to look at all possible alternatives for potential savings,” committee co-chair and board member Brian Vyncke, Moline, said after Tuesday’s regular county board meeting.

The committee chose a design by CGL that would have attached a new courthouse building to the existing Rock Island County Justice Center while remodeling the County Office Building. The courthouse, which was built in 1896, is not fit for remodeling, according to CGL’s study.

Board members declined in December to put on the March primary ballot a referendum asking voters to expand the powers of the Public Building Commission to spend up to $72 million on the project.

Vyncke said the board wants to see cheaper alternatives.

“Our intent was to give it to the voters and let them decide,” he said of the committee’s work on the courthouse. “Obviously, we want to present something that would pass.”

A lawsuit has been threatened by Jeffrey O'Connor, the chief judge of Illinois’ 14th Judicial Circuit, if something is not done to bring the crumbling courthouse up to code. 

Vyncke said all ideas will be on the table when the committee meets with CGL.

Board member Drue Mielke, Coal Valley, questioned whether construction of a building with courtrooms only would be a possible solution.

“We can do something bare bones that addresses the issues at hand,” Mielke said. “That would get us from under the threat of a lawsuit.” 

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Mielke also would like to see cost estimates for refurbishing the old courthouse into offices, as well as the cost of demolition.

“We’ve been told the old courthouse is not worth refurbishing, but if we won’t be using it as a courthouse, what does that do to the cost? Is that cheaper than having an empty building sitting there?”

In a separate facilities issue, the county board’s health and human services committee continues to crunch numbers on a tax increase to help the  struggling Hope Creek Care Center in East Moline.

A referendum will be placed on the November ballot to ask taxpayers to raise the Hope Creek levy from 10 cents per $1,000 valuation to 25 cents per $1,000 valuation.

County board chairman Phil Banaszek said Tuesday night the question is how long the higher levy would be necessary. The county is letting Gabelmann & Associates PC of Bettendorf do the number-crunching.

Recommendations have been made to either sell the property to a nursing home company or lease it to a private entity to run.

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