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ROCK ISLAND — Rain poured over the Quad-Cities on Monday and presumably, also inside the historic Rock Island County courthouse

Despite requests from concerned residents to the Public Building Commission (PBC) to cover holes cut into the roof from asbestos abatement in January, the roof remains open to the elements. 

Public Building commissioners said at their April 11 meeting that steps would be taken to protect the building pending the outcome of a lawsuit to stop demolition of the 124-year-old courthouse, 210 15th St.

But nearly two weeks later, nothing has been done. 

"We've told the roofer to begin patching the roof, but not with a tarp," Gilbane Building Co. Project Manager Phil Thiele said. 

Thiele said the PBC received a bid from Sterling Roofing for $6,900 to patch the holes. 

"They've not been directed to begin yet," Thiele said. "We have an estimate but no contract. The PBC is waiting for us to finalize some parts of the budget; that should be today. Everything else is on hold."

Landmarks Illinois, one of six plaintiffs jointly suing the county and the PBC to stop demolition of the courthouse, hired a structural engineer to evaluate the building in preparation for litigation. 

Sarah Van Domelen, a structural engineer with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., of Chicago, toured the courthouse March 1. Van Domelen found extensive damage caused by asbestos abatement and recommended the roof be protected.

"The north main roof may have been serviceable prior to hazardous materials abatement, but significant repair or replacement will now be required since numerous cuts have been made throughout," she wrote. "The building is not at risk of collapse.

"Until the future of the building is determined, temporary protection should be installed at locations of water infiltration, particularly on the roofs, to limit further deterioration of interior finishes and structural elements." Van Domelen wrote in her report.

In late March, a Dispatch-Argus reporter witnessed a puddle of standing water on the first level of the courthouse near the open rotunda.

PBC Chairman Brent Ganahl was asked Monday if a tarp had been placed on the roof until contractors begin work. 

"Not to the best of my knowledge," Ganahl said. "I just spoke with my construction manager (Thiele) and something should happen soon. I'll follow up with (Thiele) and clarify that it gets done quickly."

Meanwhile, Thiele said Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos ordered first-floor windows to be boarded up. 

"That work has begun," Thiele said. "It's for the security and safety of the courthouse."

Bustos denies ordering the windows to be boarded up. 

"I am not giving them direction to do this," Bustos said. "I would assume this is direction from the courts. That building has been turned over to the county and the PBC."

Ganahl did not know what the cost is to board up the first floor windows. 

RED X MARKS ON TREES

Six trees on the courthouse lot have been painted with red X marks, including two magnolia trees in full bloom, indicating plans for removal. 

Thiele said Valley Construction would remove two trees from the courthouse property after an arborist's report determined them to be dangerous.

"It was a report issue," Thiele said. "The sheriff hired an arborist to study the trees, and the report indicated two trees were dangerous."

Bustos said the only arborist report he was aware of was from July, when a limb from an oak tree fell and killed two men during a Fourth of July celebration. 

After the accident, Rock Island County Forest Preserve District Arborist Ben Mills recommended the oak tree and a second oak tree a few feet away both be removed. 

Thiele said Monday he did not know which trees were slated for removal and did not mention the red X marks. 

"The two trees would be coming down anyway," Ganahl said. "They were going to be removed by the county no matter what, per the arborist report."

Bustos said no trees would be removed until the lawsuit was settled and the path was cleared for demolition should the county and PBC win.

"I haven't told anyone to cut any trees down," Bustos said. "I'm apprehensive to cut anything down now because there are pending lawsuits. Nobody's doing anything with the trees until we can get it straightened out, and we are in compliance with the court order.

"The building has been turned over to the PBC and the county," Bustos said. "I am in agreement on covering up those windows with boards. As far as any other work, nothing will happen while this lawsuit is pending. 

"Rest assured, none of the trees are going to come down until we get this straightened out through the courts. We don't want to cut down any trees that we don't need to," Bustos said. 

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