Shame on the Rock Island County Board!|
For decades the county has been aware of the steadily deteriorating condition of the historic courthouse and clearly those needs were bumped to the bottom of the priorities list every year.
Apparently politics and bureaucracy got in the way of action. Now, we are on the brink of lawsuits to be filed by the judiciary and other workers who are in a work environment beyond hostile. This is untenable.
At a recent forum at Martin Luther King Center, basically we were told the courthouse is structurally sound but it needs to be gutted, leaving this writer with more questions than answers.
When the roof first started to go, why didn't the county building committee assess that situation, make recommendations to the county board to fix it, and fix it? When it became apparent the heating and cooling and electrical systems all were yielding to the ravages of 100 years of service, why wasn't the same logical progression of repair implemented?
Imagine the courthouse restored to its original glory -- only in tune with the 21st century! Some of the greatest architectural marvels in the world took centuries to build, and renovating a valuable historical structure in Rock Island County won't be done quickly, but it is worth preserving.
This is not a project for the faint of heart. Indeed, out-of-the-box thinking is needed to address all the issues surrounding the cellar-to-dome renovation of a great building.
It is time to really look at the entire area around and across the street from the courthouse. Has the old church building got any further use left in its old bones? New, semi-permanent courtroom and office space could be built north of the present courthouse, with parking relocated to the south.
What should be done immediately is to transport valuable records to a secure, dry location while they are scanned and recreated digitally. The county courthouse needs to remain where it is.
We know what has to be done. "State mandates" hang over our heads and there is no more time to waste. The wheels of justice cannot turn if the environment they must run in is hazardous to life and limb of all who are connected with its process.
Don't throw history away because the path forward now is so complex. Embrace the challenge and look forward to the road ahead.
Caryl Altemus lives in Rock Island.
Sherrard, IL Details
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