A newly drafted intergovernmental agreement on the fate of the Rock Island County courthouse will be considered by county board members tonight at 5:30 p.m. at the county building, 1504 3rd Ave.
If approved at the committee-of-whole meeting, it will advance to the regular board meeting July 17, where board members will officially vote on demolition of the historic courthouse, 210 15th St.
The agreement allows the county to hand over the deed of the courthouse to the Public Building Commission, which will pay $1.6 million for asbestos abatement and demolition of the building. The PBC also will pay for construction of landscaped green space with bollards and a berm to protect the exterior of the justice center.
The $1.6 million is additional funds from the initial $28 million the PBC bonded for construction of the justice center annex in 2016.
This is at least the fourth version of an intergovernmental agreement in recent months. Three previous versions were rejected by board members for various reasons, including one with the date left blank.
The agreement includes new language allowing for oversight by county administrator Jim Snider, who must give approval to the PBC for demolition bids and salvage value of any materials.
Unlike other intergovernmental agreements, this one did not go through the governance, health and administration committee.
Board member Scott Terry said board chairman Kenneth "Moose" Maranda made the decision not to have the agreement begin in the committee, which met Monday morning.
"The chairman gets to pick and choose what committee," Terry said. "Because of the importance of the issue, he's taking it straight to the committee of the whole so it has a proper vetting process."
Board member Drue Mielke has questioned whether $1.6 million will be enough to demolish the courthouse and construct green space, noting the county has not requested bids for demolition.
Mielke said the Bedford limestone exterior of the courthouse, built in 1895-97, is very thick.
"The courthouse is of a substantial, even formidable, construction, regardless of whether it can be refurbished or repurposed," Mielke said.
Also within the new agreement is language stating once construction of the annex is complete this November, all county offices and functions will cease in the current courthouse and move. The recorder's office and court services are the only county offices remaining in the courthouse and have yet to be moved.
At that time, the annex will "thereafter be designated as the Rock Island County courthouse," the agreement states.
The Public Building Commission was created in 1981 for the purpose of building a new county jail. Its function was not to build courthouses, Mielke said. In order for the new structure to be called a courthouse, a referendum would have to go before voters for their approval. Calling it an annex was a way to avoid putting it on the ballot, Mielke said.
Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee said changing the name from annex to courthouse is not an issue, but one that could be clarified with a resolution.
"It might be cleaner to do it through a separate resolution," McGehee said. "That's something the county board can make a decision on; that's their call.
"The justice center has to be connected to the jail, and a new annex has to be connected to the justice center so the PBC can proceed with their funding of the new annex. How you define it is not the important issue. What's important is that everything on the site is connected. That's what was important to the bond counsel in their opinion of the money being used in this particular project.
"How you name it is not an issue," McGehee said. "I think the way it was done, according to bond counsel, was done in a legal manner. If you demolish the courthouse, you still have to have a courthouse. It's a requirement. The (annex) will be known as the courthouse."