RICO courthouse: There is no room!

Posted Online: April 03, 2013, 2:56 pm
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By John Donald O'Shea
In my last op-ed, I wrote that the Rock Island County Courthouse was both physically and functionally obsolete. That conclusion was premised on incontrovertible facts, including:

-- In 2013, the circuit clerk has 43 employees;
-- In 1894, the Circuit Clerk had two or three employees;
-- The 1897 courthouse plans called for the circuit clerk to have two offices: one, 26' x 30,' and the other 26' x 20 feet.'

Doubters have expressed the opinion the county should simply remodel the courthouse. But the building isn't big enough to accommodate the number of people who work there -- and who use the building. Remodeling won't increase the building's usable space.

Go look! Don't argue that the building should be remodeled, unless -- after seeing it with your own eyes -- you can honestly say: There presently is plenty of room for the courts, officeholders and employees, and all the people using the building; that remodeling will increase usable space; and if you remodel, you have plenty of space the next 10 years. During your visit, check out:

-- Traffic Courtroom B

If upon entering, you don't immediately see something bizarre, you've entered the wrong courtroom. It has a non-removable, load-bearing wall separating the front-half from the back-half! The people sitting on the benches in the back can't see the judge, and the judge can't see them, unless they look through one of the two doors leading from the front to the back, or watch on television!
Equally bizarre is that two judges are often assigned to work in that courtroom at the same time. Since that is impossible, Judge No. 2 conducts court in chambers rather than the courtroom.

-- Traffic Courtroom A

The set-up is similarly goofy. The rear of the courtroom sits in alcove to the left of the bench. Again, some sitting there are out of view of the judge and vice versa. And on busy days, two judges handle the case load -- one in court and the other in chambers.

Remodeling two traffic courtrooms to make four simply won't work. There is not enough space. Chopping each in half to make four courtroom will only exacerbate the situation. These are high volume courtrooms which handle in excess of 30,000 case per year.

Today when a courtroom is built, it must meet Supreme Court standards. There is no way chopping two courtrooms into four could come close to meeting those standards. Courtrooms are supposed to be of a certain square footage, and come with chambers for the judge's office, a bench, space for the attorneys and litigants. Rearranging, remodeling or reconfiguring won't meet those standards.

-- Circuit Clerk's Office (3rd Floor)

As you walk into Room No. 1, you are walking into a 520-square-foot room. An L-shaped counter divides it into two parts: a smaller area for the public, and larger work area, for clerks.

The area where the public comes to file cases is 90 square feet. The counter is about 80 square feet. A copying machine takes up 18 square feet. On the clerks' side of the counter is a work aisle. There is a second aisle accessing the copy machine. Combined, they are about 99 square feet.
Finally, there are four desks in cubicles, which take up 195 square feet. That leaves about 38 square feet. You couldn't put another clerk in the room without creating bunk-desks! This office has been remodeled and reconfigured repeatedly over the last 50 years to maximize the space. There is no more!

Room No. 2. measures roughly 750 square feet. Fifty years ago, this was a large, open roomy office. It has been reconfigured into a cramped, unfriendly space.

On the west wall of the room are modern filing cabinets. These, and the load-bearing pillars, take up an area of 122 square feet. East side of the cabinets is a service aisle which takes up 56 square feet. East of the aisle are two desks in cubicles. This entire area is about 147 square feet.
At the north end of the cubicles, is another desk and a short aisle, perhaps 50 square feet. At the south end of the cubicles, there is another desk, taking up another 20 square feet.

To the east is the main aisle, from the previously described front office, to another office at the north end of the building. This takes up 120 square feet.
Finally, east of the main aisle and running along the windows, are three more desks/cubicles, in an area about 147 square feet.

The remaining space, about 90 square feet, leads to a small office that thrusts out on the east (front) side of the courthouse.

I defy you to come up with a way to "remodel" either of these two clerks offices to make better use of the space, or jam in another employee.
The point is: the space is already well-utilized. There is no more room.
I am not advocating razing the present courthouse. It can be used for office space -- if you get the courtrooms and the circuit clerk's office into a new building. But as a courthouse, it is utterly inadequate and obsolete.

It can't be remodeled, reconfigured, or chopped further to provide the county with safe, adequate courtrooms, chambers, jury rooms and related facilities.
There is no room!


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, April 17, the 107th day of 2014. There are 258 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: Journeymen shoemakers of Rock Island struck for higher wages yesterday morning, asking 25 percent increases. Employers have acceded to their demand.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Lighting struck wires of the Merchants Electric Light Co. during a furious storm, and many Rock Island business houses were compelled to resort to gas as a means of illumination.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Members of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, decided to erect a new edifice at a cost of about $60,000.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Willard Anderson, junior forward for the Augustana College basketball team, which won 17 out of 22 contests, was elected captain of the quintet.
1964 -- 50 years ago: John Hoffman, Moline, president of the Sac-Fox Council of Boy Scouts, will be honored for his 50 years in scouting by members of the council at a dinner Thursday evening.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Quad-Cities has what is believed to be the area's first elite-class gymnast. It's the stuff upon which Olympic competitors are made. Tiffany Chapman, of Rock Island, not only has earned the highest possible gymnast ranking, she won the honor at age 11.

(More History)