RICO Courthouse Debate On The Ballot - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

RICO Courthouse Debate On The Ballot

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The Rock Island County Board is trying to decide the future of the Rock Island County Courthouse. The debate has been going on for years and now the issue will be on the ballot.

The Rock Island County Courthouse has been in disrepair for dozens of years. There is a leaky roof, mold, an enormous heating bill and sometimes pieces of the sandstone on the outside of the courthouse fall off. Fixing the problems will either require an extensive renovation or a brand new building, which will cost millions of dollars. So, the issue is going to a vote. However, what exactly will you be voting on?

"People will vote on the ability to let the public building commission to expand their powers to the full effect of the act," says RICO Board Member Don Johnston.

What that means is the county building commission will be able to find ways to pay for a new or renovated courthouse.

"All the building commission is there for is to give us a financial way to solve the problem," adds Johnston.

Right now, the commission only has power over the courthouse and jail, but the vote could also change that.

"It actually expands its powers to other facilities the counties may need, other than the criminal justice facility," says RICO Board Chair Phillip Banaszek.

Voting to expand the public building commission's power does not give the group complete control over the project.

"What that means is they still have to come back to the county board," adds Johnston, "Any project or action the building commission takes has to be initiated or approved by the county board. It doesn't give them exclusive powers to build anything."

Building a new courthouse or renovating the current one is badly needed.

"We're not in compliance with a lot of codes, and there are some ADA problems," adds Banaszek.

There are also problems with the county building, especially with roof repairs.

"Those are the kind of decisions over time we didn't make and now we're paying for it," says Johnston, "Frankly a lot of it is our fault as the county board."

Putting the issue on the ballot re-starts the process to find a solution not only for the courthouse, but possibly for the administration building too.

"This is just the first step, when we get past this point than we get into the plan, the design, the needs assessment and go from there," says Banaszek, "We can start talking money too."

Voters will head to the polls on April 9th. If they decide not to expand the building commission's powers the project will still move forward. The county board will have to find another way to get the off the ground.

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