Rock Island County Ad Hoc Committee Looking to Facilities' Futur - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Rock Island County Ad Hoc Committee Looking to Facilities' Future

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A newly formed Ad Hoc Committee will be helping to decide the future of the Rock Island County Courthouse and other aging county buildings, which have been crumbling from the inside out for decades.

The Committee's 12 appointed members, who met formally for the first time Tuesday, have their work cut out for them.

This meeting was just one step in what will certainly be a much larger, longer process.

Step one was laying out the groundwork about what the Ad Hoc Committee is and what it's been formed to do.

Its basic function: strategic planning.

"Our goal, our challenge, our task is to be a recommending body," explained John Wetzel, one Ad Hoc Committee member, who retired from MidAmerican Energy, and now does volunteer business start-up counseling.

The Committee will be making recommendations to the County Board, to help the Board decide how to go about addressing the needs for county facilities.

They're looking at the courthouse, especially. But, the county administration building and a few others also getting looked at.

All of these buildings are in very real need of updates, upgrades, and improvements - up to and including the need for new facilities all together.

"We've been dealing with, for years, situations at the courthouse that haven't gotten any better over time," said Rock Island County Board Chairman Phil Banaszek. "We've got leaking roofs, it is out of compliance with various city codes and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance, so it's time that we really address it."

One big bonus with addressing it now is the historically low interest rates on municipal bonds. That means, in terms of securing the funding to make the necessary facility upgrades, you'd be hard pressed to find a better time to do it.

The question remains, of course, just what - if anything - should the county do?

"At this point we've got about nine different options in regards to what we can take a look at as far as addressing the needs of the courthouse and/or maybe the County Administration Building," Phil Banaszek said.

"We're going to use the Ad Hoc Committee to go through that process - find out what's most cost effective for the tax payers of the county and hopefully they can come up with a recommendation for us," he continued.

It is a lot of information to digest.

"It's not really overwhelming, but it is an eyebrow raiser," Wetzel said.

The next step is getting a first hand look at the facilities in question.

The Ad Hoc Committee will be touring them in the coming week, ahead of its next meeting on March 14.

Of course, all of this is tied into a referendum vote on April 9.

Taxpayers have to decide whether to expand the authority of the existing Public Buildings Commission to execute the building or renovation needs for all county facilities and help secure the funding to do it.

Right now, the commission just covers the jail.

The Ad Hoc Committee can plan until it is blue in the face, but little can actually be accomplished if the PBC issue fails at the polls.