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Local News

Will County Board argues over courthouse funding

Conceptual designs for courthouse revealed

The most recent design update for the new Will County courthouse is a 10-story structure with a wide range of features and spaces.
The most recent design update for the new Will County courthouse is a 10-story structure with a wide range of features and spaces.

JOLIET – Will County Board Republicans and Democrats accused each other of not being honest after a long-range building plan for the courthouse project was reviewed Thursday during a Committee of the Whole meeting.

Finance Committee Chairman Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, presented Dec. 1 the preliminary long-range financial plan for the project to a joint Finance and Capital Improvements Committee meeting. Board Speaker Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, said Thursday the plan could be voted on at next week’s board meeting.

But Democrats said Thursday they want more time to review the plan and accused Republicans of not being transparent.

“None of this was vetted in a public hearing or anything, or in open committees,” said board member Don Moran, D-Romeoville. “So I’m just trying to grasp my arms around it right now.”

Will County Executive Chief of Staff Nick Palmer said his office didn’t receive the plan until Dec. 1.

“That’s because the county executive continually said to this board, ‘Show me the funding, show me the revenue streams,’” Moustis said. “You didn’t want to participate.”

Moustis said the Finance Committee has been deliberating on the plan for a while, and he noted the board had more than a week to review it.

“So to say it wasn’t done openly [isn’t true],” Moustis said.

Fricilone said delaying the process isn’t feasible anymore because construction costs are starting to go up.

Moran and other Democrats, along with Palmer, called for a workshop meeting to discuss the plan.

After an hourlong spat among several members of the board, Moustis said the board will hold a workshop meeting on the plan Jan. 14.

Courthouse design

The board also received a courthouse design update by consultant Jason Dwyer from Wight and Co.

Dwyer said the concept was based on the courthouse’s needs and a budget of $150 million to $160 million.

The concept includes a reconstruction of the courthouse into a 10-floor – plus basement level – 390,000-square-foot building.

There are 23 courtrooms in the existing courthouse. But the new building could accommodate 34 courtrooms, with 30 courtrooms initially built.

The first floor would house the security screening space with a queue and ADA-accessible ramp, entrance lobby, service area, jury assembly space, traffic court, orders-of-protection area and fully enclosed sally port. The lower level would include a central holding area and parking.

Criminal, misdemeanor and traffic court would be on the second floor with an escalator for alternate access. Courtrooms would dominate space from the third to 10th floors. The third floor also would house space for the state’s attorney’s use.

The fourth floor would hold the public defender’s office, sheriff’s office and shared staff space. The fifth floor would contain an open vegetative terrace area.

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