Dangers of Empty Courthouse Include Snipers & Falling Debris

Jan 28, 2019

The chief judge of Illinois' 14th Circuit says the Rock Island County Courthouse is a danger to employees and the public. That's why last Friday, Walter Braud issued an administrative order to the Rock Island County Board and its Public Building Commission to demolish it as soon as possible.

Michelle O'Neill reports the process could begin within a couple of weeks, when a contractor completes removing asbestos from the courthouse.

The chief judge's office in the new, Rock Island County Criminal Justice Center Annex (file)
Credit Michelle O'Neill / WVIK News

Chief Judge Walter Braud and other Rock Island County court employees are enjoying their first winter in a new building.

The justice center annex was built right next to the old courthouse. And it does not require them to wear coats or use space heaters to keep warm.

Each week, Braud says around 1,000 employees and visitors walk past the courthouse to reach the annex. And some employees are worried about the vacant building. Bailiffs have asked the judge if they'll have to start wearing vests because of snipers breaking into the courthouse when it's empty.

In his order, Judge Braud cites a number of reasons not to delay tearing down the courthouse (see below). For example, the Public Building Commission has already awarded a contract for the project, and the county does not need permission from a state agency.

He says city permits will be necessary. Braud says he's also eager for demolition to start, because parts of the stone exterior periodically fall off and could injure someone.

WVIK's messages to the Illinois DNR's State Historic Preservation Office have not been returned.

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