RICO Courthouse, Hope Creek Will Not Be on March Ballot - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

RICO Courthouse, Hope Creek Will Not Be on March Ballot

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There was lively debate at Tuesday's Rock Island County Board meeting, where board members were facing big decisions about two major facilities, Hope Creek Care and the county courthouse.

During this meeting the county board decided there will be no referendum questions on the March ballot about either of those facilities.

The courthouse question would have asked voters to support building a new courthouse and renovating the county administration building, spending up to $72 million on the project.

Some board members expressed concerns about the total and that the courthouse referendum could mean too many questions on the ballot, which they feared would increase the odds of voters voting against all of them.

"I don't think it's a defeat for eventually doing something new with the courthouse, I think everybody recognizes there's a need. I think it's more of a question of the timing and the priorities," said one county board member, Scott Terry, who is vice chair of the Finance Committee.

"Obviously the board felt that there were more important issues to address," said County Board Chair Phil Banaszek, who said he was 'disappointed' with the board's decision.

"Personally, I'm still trying to figure out how not having the courthouse issue on the March ballot affects another question that's on the November ballot," he added.

That November ballot question will likely ask voters to approve a temporary increase in the property tax to fund Hope Creek Care.

There was talk about putting a Hope Creek Care advisory referendum on the March ballot, asking whether the county should continue owning and maintaining the facility.

But, that proposed referendum was tabled by the Governmental Affairs Committee, and despite efforts on Tuesday night by a members, the county board decided to allow the committee's decision stand.

"We want to be able to explore all the possibilities and let the voters look at solid information, solid facts before they make a decision about the future of {more than} 200 seniors' homes," explained Richard Brunk, Chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee.

One possibility to come up with needed money for Hope Creek Care in the long run could involve the lottery.

Don Lind, a local man who spoke to the county board on Tuesday, has collected nearly 500 signatures on a petition to create a lottery ticket to help fund public nursing homes in Illinois.

Lind has been in talks with the governor's office and state lottery officials, and he says his state representative has agreed to introduce legislation in the General Assembly next month.

The Rock Island County Board decided to postpone a vote on Tuesday that would authorize the county to borrow just over two million dollars to fund Hope Creek care that would be paid back from anticipated tax revenue.

County board members did vote to authorize borrowing 5 million dollars for the general fund.

Without the courthouse and Hope Creek Care referendum questions on the March ballot now, voters will still have to decide whether to approve a quarter cent sales tax for the county's general fund.

School districts in Rock Island County are also asking voters to approve a penny sales tax hike.

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