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ROCK ISLAND — Holes in the roof of the historic Rock Island County courthouse caused by asbestos abatement have drawn the ire of preservationists and the concern of county board members. 

Rock Island County Administrator Jim Snider confirmed the damage Wednesday night during the county committee of the whole meeting. 

County board members Drue Mielke and Mia Mayberry said they were aware of water leaking in through the roof of the courthouse. 

"I heard, after asbestos abatement, that the courthouse had damage to the roof," Mielke said. "If so, would there be provision to put a tarp or something until we know the outcome of pending litigation? It just makes sense to me; it's simple and inexpensive."

Snider said he would make sure the topic was discussed at Thursday's Public Building Commission (PBC) meeting. But Rock Island resident Tom Sparkman confronted PBC members at the beginning of the meeting before Snider could bring it up. 

Commissioner Patrick Wendt said public comments would be limited to three minutes and set a timer on his phone.

"I would like to request, with the lawsuit pending, that something be done be done to the roof that was damaged during removal of asbestos," Sparkman said. "It wouldn't take much money to put tarps down to keep water from coming in through the roof. If it continues, it will cause further damage. I would like the PBC to take a look at that. There are a lot of concerned citizens."

Commissioner Clarence Darrow asked how big the hole is.

"I don't know; hopefully the PBC knows," Sparkman said. "I just know there are holes in the roof as the result of the illegal removal of asbestos."

"The problem is, it's not our building," Darrow said. "Does the county have any idea what to do?"

"According to the state's attorney, any type of mothballing would be the PBC's purview," Snider said. 

"It's the county's courthouse, and the sheriff is in charge of the courthouse," Darrow said. "(Chief Judge) Walter Braud still contends that's the courthouse so therefore, I don't know what the (PBC) can do."

PBC Chairman Brent Ganahl said he would contact the construction manager, Phil Thiele, about the cost of patching holes. 

Wendt's phone alarm began chiming. "Three minutes is up," he said. "Should we lose (the lawsuit), my suggestion is the people who delayed (demolition) should cough up the money for any repairs. They're the ones that delayed it."

The PBC awarded a contract for asbestos abatement to Advanced Environmental Testing and Abatement of Waterloo, Iowa, in November for $153,500. It was the only bid for the project. 

According to a letter issued by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) Jan. 16 to county officials, the courthouse was not to suffer any "adverse effects," including asbestos abatement, while plans for demolition were under review by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. 

Nevertheless, abatement began in January and continued through February.

The fate of the courthouse, built between 1895 and 1897, remains in limbo. Peoria County 10th Circuit Judge Jodi Hoos dismissed a lawsuit March 19 brought by Landmarks Illinois and six other plaintiffs against the county and the PBC to prevent the building from being demolished.

An emergency stay was granted March 22 by the Third District Appellate Court following an appeal filed by Landmarks Illinois on behalf of six plaintiffs, and the temporary restraining order was restored. 

Snider said holes were likely discovered by a structural engineer hired by Landmarks Illinois during an assessment of the courthouse in March. 

Sarah Van Domelen, a structural engineer with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., of Chicago, evaluated the building March 1. Her report was filed as a separate exhibit during the first court hearing in Peoria County March 6.

Van Domelen determined in her report that the courthouse is sound structurally, but found damage caused by asbestos abatement. 

"The north main roof may have been serviceable prior to hazardous materials abatement, but significant repair or replacement will now be required since numerous cuts have been made throughout," she wrote. "The building is not at risk of collapse."

"Until the future of the building is determined, temporary protection should be installed at locations of water infiltration, particularly on the roofs, to limit further deterioration of interior finishes and structural elements." Van Domelen reported. 

On Thursday, the Third District Appellate Court issued an order to Landmarks Illinois and the other plaintiffs that a bond of $336,000 must be posted by April 18. Landmarks Illinois stated April 3 they would be able to post bond. 

Meanwhile, Snider told county board members on Wednesday that furniture and items removed from the courthouse will be sold during a public auction tentatively scheduled May 4 at the Rock Island County fairgrounds, 4200 Archer Drive, East Moline. 

"Our goal was to repurpose as much as we could," Snider said. "I feel confident we've pulled everything out of there that had value."

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