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Rock Island County Board revisits old courthouse discussion

It's a years-long saga: What will happen to the old Rock Island County courthouse? The Rock Island County board heard public comments about the issue on Wednesday.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — It's a saga that's been going on for several years: What is going to happen to the old Rock Island County courthouse?

It is a discussion that is still in the air.

There's now even a sign posted in downtown about saving the old Rock Island County courthouse.

"I think we would do a lot better to preserve an old building," said Pat O'Brien.

O'Brien said having the discussion again, this time at Wednesday's County Board "Committee of the Whole" meeting was the right step.

"We should at least let people who are prospective buyers look around in there," O'Brien said.

A prospective buyer could be Quad City developer Joe Lemon, who plans to remodel the space, then rent it to the federal government.

That is something board member Jeff Deppe said is something new the board should explore since the last discussions.

"It doesn't hurt to listen to see if it's a viable option and if the federal government wants to go that way with a federal courthouse," Deppe said.

The Rock Island County Board "Committee of the Whole" heard public comment from several people via phone calls on Wednesday, before board members discussed the issue at length themselves.

"Any action that is put forward has to have certain conditions," said board member Kai Swanson. "One is, per the preservationists, has to look exactly as it did in 1897. Not 1958, when because of the structural inadequacies and poor design and workmanship in that building in 1897, the roof was about to collapse."

The county attorneys also said the county had not received any formal bids for the courthouse, by the time of the meeting on Wednesday. The attorneys said a bidder is the one who schedules a tour of the old courthouse, not the county board.

But with no formal decision or vote, the fate of the old Rock Island courthouse is still up in the air.

The RICO Board did discuss adding the courthouse item to its meeting agenda next week. They did not make a decision before entering a closed session on Wednesday.

The deadline for the federal government to make its decision about which properties to pursue for a new federal courthouse is March 22.

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