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Rock Island County Courthouse

Rock Island County Courthouse 

The Rock Island County Board voted Wednesday night to approve an agenda that includes holding a vote on the future of the courthouse.

Eight people spoke during the public comments, all of them about the courthouse and its future. Only one person spoke in favor of tearing down the historic structure, located at 210 15th St., Rock Island.

At issue is what to do with the existing courthouse once the annex, which may also be renamed as the courthouse, opens. An agreement that is to be voted on Tuesday would sign the deed over to the Public Building Commission, which would use $1.6 million for asbestos abatement, demolition, and installation of landscaping and a protective berm.

Jim Uribe, a 26-year resident of Rock Island, told the board that the good of the many must outweigh the needs of the few.

"The good of the many demands that we tear down this courthouse," Uribe said. "To me, this courthouse represents the epitome of government waste and basically, it represents the past. I think it's time for Rock Island County to move forward by focusing on cutting taxes for its residents so that we can retain the people that we have. Tear it down!"

Bridget Ehrman of Rock Island said she reviewed the last five years of county board minutes to figure out how the county got to this point. She said it seemed there was a lot of misinformation being spread about the courthouse.

"The fact that people are calling the courthouse 'decrepit' and 'unable to be restored' is misinformation," Ehrman said. "There have been no studies that have recommended tearing down the courthouse. I do not think that due diligence has been done on what is the best option for our tax dollars."

Diane Oestreich of Rock Island told the board that its members do not know what it will truly cost to tear down the courthouse because there has been no asbestos analysis. She asked where county offices will move to, and echoed the earlier statements about misinformation.

"Yes, it needs work, we acknowledge that, buildings need work," Oestreich said. "There has also been downright lies. Judge (Walter) Braud has lied in the newspaper, I heard an attorney who said he represented the PBC at the August preservation commission in Rock Island say the PBC had control of the building and they were going to tear it down. Flat out lies."

Some board members expressed concern about what would happen if the demolition costs exceeded the planned $1.6 million.

Board member Richard Morthland noted that the PBC board had a clause to protect it from cost overruns that allows the board to walk away if it runs out of money.

Rock Island County Administrator Jim Snider asked the board to be allowed to work with the PBC in an advisory role. The board agreed to allow for a vote on that issue at the regular board meeting.

After the meeting, board member Don Johnston said he didn't think the board could tear down the building without knowing where other offices located in it would move to. He said the planning for the new building was "insufficient."

"Now we are talking about getting into the same situation, pass the resolution, basically tear the courthouse down and not know what we are going to do with the offices in it," Johnston said.