Many people in Rock Island County will say, "I love our beautiful old courthouse, but you can't save everything. I'd be all for saving it if only we had the money."
If only. But remarkably, a contractor's analysis presented to the Rock Island County Board members in March demonstrated that demolishing the old courthouse and replacing it with a new building would be the most costly of three options. More costly by $5.4 million, if you adjust for the cost of demolishing the old building and repairing the site. Five million here, five million there, pretty soon you're talking real money. And if the Public Building Commission ultimately builds a new county office building at an astounding $608 per square-foot, as it did in the new annex, we're talking much more. But if you tear down the old place, and renovation can never be an option.
Why hasn't this been more widely known? The emergency situation that led to the funding of the Justice Annex is over. The new building is almost complete. Fine. The Public Building Commission is overreaching if it thinks it can take over the old courthouse and demolish it without a public vote. I say, don't let them do it. Let's take our time on a decision that will impact the county for a hundred years.
Editor's note: Handel is a retired architect.