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Local News

Will County Courthouse design plans, funding sources debated

The design presented recently to the City Council for the new Will County Courthouse would incorporate limestone and glass paneling. The new facility would have floors — not 10 — and one floor would likely house the Public Defender's office, under a new plan pushed Tuesday by the Will County Board's Capital Improvements Committee.
The design presented recently to the City Council for the new Will County Courthouse would incorporate limestone and glass paneling. The new facility would have floors — not 10 — and one floor would likely house the Public Defender's office, under a new plan pushed Tuesday by the Will County Board's Capital Improvements Committee.

JOLIET – The new Will County Courthouse would have 11 floors – not 10 – and one floor would likely house the Public Defender's office, under a new plan pushed Tuesday by the Will County Board's Capital Improvements Committee.

Under the plan, one of the floors would be shelled out for additional courtrooms to account for future population growth. The judicial complex, once complete, is expected to cost about $150 million to $160 million. Each floor – including build outs – costs about $10 million, however.

The original plan was to build 10 floors total, include one shelled out for future growth, said Jason Dwyer, project manager with the Darien-based firm Wight & Co., the firm hired for programming and design work.

Some committee members argued the Will County State's Attorney's Office would be better suited in the new courthouse, though noting that office would likely need three dedicated floors given its size.

Eleven floors – including a shelled floor – would allow for 38 courtrooms, Dwyer said, with additional courtrooms at satellite complexes in the northern and eastern sections of the county. There are 23 courtrooms in the current courthouse, six in the Emco building and two at the River Valley Juvenile Detention Center.

Some committee members argued they should build 12 floors, but Dwyer said 11 would be enough, saying the most recent population projections suggest Will County may not reach 1.2 million residents by 2040 as previously estimated.

“You may take longer to get to that,” Dwyer said.

Will County Finance Committee

The Will County Finance Committee also met Tuesday to approve an ordinance authorizing a bond issuance of up to $275 million for capital projects, including a new courthouse, sheriff's facility and health department.

Committee member Cory Singer, R-Frankfort, was the lone 'no' vote, questioning whether the county can afford to divert 15 to 18 percent of RTA sales tax revenue over a 10-year-period to help build a new courthouse.

Committee member Jim Moustis argued "not one road project" would be affected by the county pulling $40 million to $50 million from the RTA fund during 10 years.

"Show me one project that's not going to get done and I'll listen to you," Moustis said.

Singer argued there are too many unforeseen, much-needed road projects. There's also the fact that local governments will soon be forced to pick up the state's financial obligations as Illinois digs itself into a deeper fiscal crisis.

"I strongly believe that there will be a day that we, or another board, will look back and regret this decision of spending this much money on a new facility," Singer said. "We can't overlook the fact that Will County remains in Illinois, unfortunately. ... The state is completely and utterly broke."

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