JOLIET – Will County is committed to ensuring that Joliet remains the county seat, according to Will County Board Speaker Herb Brooks Jr.
Brooks, who led the Joliet City Council in prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance at its Tuesday session, assured council members that a proposed new courthouse would likely remain in the downtown.
“We are working diligently to stay downtown,” Brooks said in response to a comment by Councilman Jim McFarland, who asked how the new courthouse would play into the Downtown Joliet City Center Master plan.
It’s likely the courthouse will be built where the First Midwest Bank, 50 W. Jefferson St., currently stands.
Brooks said Wednesday the county is “very, very close” to closing on the property.
Brooks noted that while a majority of the board favors keeping courthouse in the downtown, two members had proposed moving out to the Interstate 355 greenway near Silver Cross Hospital.
“Two out of 26 means that it’s not going to fly,” Brooks said. “Both sides of the aisle are committed to staying in downtown Joliet.”
The courthouse’s attached facilities, including the county jail and offices, make the downtown site a more cost-effective option, Brooks said.
McFarland was enthused by Brooks’ comments.
“It’s promising to hear that the speaker and a majority of board want to keep the courthouse downtown,” McFarland said. “If it weren’t downtown it would kill that whole area. It’s the economic hub of the downtown.”
A new courthouse could cost anywhere from $140 million and $200 million, depending on how many courtrooms the county decides to build.
While the county does not have a timetable yet for building the facility – nor has it made a final commitment to build it – it is moving forward on the project.
The county board last week approved hiring Wight & Company of Darien as the project’s design and planning team.
Once all of the studies are completed, the county will look at funding options, Brooks said.