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Historic Preservation Group Repeats Request for Delay of Courthouse Demolition

Screenshot of a press release from the Courthouse Revitalization Committee, Sept. 15, 2022
Courthouse Revitalization Committee,
Screenshot of a press release from the Courthouse Revitalization Committee, Sept. 15, 2022

A group of Rock Island County residents continues to ask the county board to reconsider its decision to tear down the old courthouse.

The group is called the Courthouse Revitalization Committee (and it's different from the "Save the Courthouse" group). Committee member Greg Swanson, from Moline, says he's filed Freedom of Information requests with the Rock Island County Board to find out more about what led to the board's decision to tear it down.

In Illinois, sheriffs are responsible for taking care of courthouse repair and maintenance. In Rock Island County, that's Gerry Bustos who has spoken to the board and Public Building Commission about the condition of the 125-year-old building.

And Swanson says some of his statements were inaccurate and misleading. For example, the sheriff has referred to "concrete" and chunks falling off the building. But the building is made from limestone, and Swanson says the sheriff and county failed to have it cleaned and tuckpointed over the years.

Swanson says based on his research, and records obtained from Freedom of Information Requests, he thinks a small group of county officials decided to demolish the courthouse long before the full board considered it.

The Committee is calling for an investigation and renewing its call for the Rock Island County Board (Board) to suspend demolition activities and gather accurate information before spending in excess of $674,000 to demolish the Historic Rock Island Courthouse.

The press release summarizes disconcerting information obtained by researching public records and FOIA requests submitted to various government entities.
Courtouse Revitalization Committee, Greg Swanson

The Courthouse Revitalization Committee would like the county board to delay demolition, form partnerships, and find a solution. Swanson says that includes conducting an unbiased evaluation of the value and structural integrity of the old courthouse.

Members of the Courthouse Revitalization Committee plan to speak at tonight's Rock Island County Board meeting.

Two years ago, the Illinois Third District Appellate Court ruled the county can't demolish the courthouse without complying with the State Historic Resources Preservation Act. Since then, Rock Island County has been in discussions with the State Historic Preservation Office to document the building's history and comply with the law. It's formally known as recordation.

Once the state office notifies the county in writing that the recordation is complete, demolition can begin.

Click on the attachment below to read the committee's full statement about its findings and conclusions.

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