RI committee plans a push for referendum votes to fund new courthouse

Originally Posted Online: March 14, 2013, 10:17 pm
Last Updated: March 31, 2013, 7:20 pm
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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

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.


Local events heading

  Today is Tuesday, April 15, the 105th day of 2014. There are 260 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: A large and splendid new safe has been hauled out to Young Brothers store in Camden to replace the old one, which recently was robbed.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The salary of Mayor Blaning was raised to $1,000 by the Rock Island City Council.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rock Island Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring one of the most intensive cleanup campaigns ever conducted.
1939 -- 75 years ago: According to Forecaster Truman Shipman, April weather has been six and one-half degrees below normal with an all-time low for any April 12 established when the mercury slipped down to 22 degrees.
1964 -- 50 years ago: The Rock Island Board of Education discussed the planned addition to the high school until nearly midnight last night.
1989 -- 25 years ago: April 13, 53 of the top spellers from Rock Island, Mercer, and Henry counties spelling bees came together at Augustana College to compete in the Ninth Annual Regional Spelling Bee.

(More History)