A special Rock Island County committee is planning a push for "yes" votes in the April 9 referendum asking the public to support creating a way to finance construction of a new courthouse.
At a Thursday afternoon meeting, the ad hoc building facilities committee decided to concentrate on the referendum before diving into thorny questions about where a new courthouse should be located and how much it might cost.
Rock Island County voters will be asked if they support expanding the authority of the county's public building commission. The commission currently is limited to jail projects. By expanding its authority, the commission could be used to issue bonds for any county building project.
Pressure from the county's judges to replace the dilapidated courthouse prompted the county board to put the referendum question to the public.
The ad hoc committee consists of county board members and members of the public tasked by Rock Island County Board Chairman Phil Banaszek with making a recommendation to the county board on the future of the county's buildings.
The committee is expected to work through questions about whether a new courthouse is needed, where it should be built, what size should it be and how much should be spent on it. Also on the table is the possibility of building a new county administration building or consolidating all county offices on one site.
Thursday's meeting was the second by the committee, with all members supporting the passage of the April 9 referendum. After some debate, it was decided advocating support of the referendum should be the committee's primary concern.
With less than four weeks until the referendum, the committee decided to plan a media campaign, speak at local service clubs and reach out to local political officials seeking to convince them to also advocate support of the referendum.
Committee member Pat Wendt, a real estate appraiser, said it was best to "hang loose" on the details of any new building project until after the referendum passes. Ifthe referendum fails, he said, the debate will be moot because the county lacks the financing power for any serious building project.
However, committee member Don DeLoose, a bailiff, said it was difficult to sell the referendum to the public without being able to say exactly what the county would do with a newly empowered building commission.
The main purpose of the building commission is to issue bonds that would finance the construction of a new courthouse or other building. Property tax dollars would be used to service the debt.
Although the commission is independent from the county in theory, its members are appointed by the county board. The county board also directs the commission on the location, scope and cost of any project.
The ad hoc committee on the county's building needs plans to meet again Wednesday.
Today is Monday, March 10, the 69th day of 2014. There are 296 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Numerous counterfeiters are around, taking advantage of the influx of currency to pass their worthless trash. 1889 -- 125 years ago: J.J. Reimers, secretary and treasurer of the Rock Island Lumber and Manufacturing Co., on behalf of that firm, contributed $500 toward construction of a new Methodist church. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Samuel Ryerson, county recorder, was re-elected president of the 19th District of Knights of Pythias. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Three condemnation suits have been filed by the city of Rock Island to acquire property needed for an approach to the Rock Island-Davenport bridge, which has been under construction since March 6. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Plans for an eight-story Sheraton Inn in downtown Rock Island were announced today at a luncheon meeting at the Gay Nineties sponsored by the Rock Island Chamber of Commerce. Cost of the structure is estimated at $2.5 million. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Representatives of the Hardee's Golf Classic and tournament sponsor Hardee's Food Systems may meet next week with PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman to discuss a possible change in the tournament dates.