Judge Braud Orders Demolition Of Rock Island County Courthouse

Jan 28, 2019

Rock Island County Courthouse
Credit WVIK News

Rock Island County Circuit Chief Judge Walter Braud has ordered the Rock Island County Courthouse be demolished.

Braud issued a ten-page court order on Friday to the Rock Island County Board—which owns the Courthouse—and the Public Building Commission, which has been authorized by the County Board to execute the building's demolition by entering into agreements with private contractors.

In the order, he wrote the building's current condition presents "a real and present danger" to the 1,000 people he says visit the neighboring Justice Center Annex every week.

Braud wrote that water infilitration in the courthouse is causing jagged chunks of the stone facade to periodically break loose and fall three stories to the sidewalk below. In addition to the safety risk, Braud wrote there is also a liability risk to county taxpayers.

Braud in his order cited Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos as calling the vacant courthouse a "sniper's nest," as nearly 100 windows provide a vantage point to the Annex, where judges' offices are located. Even if the courthouse were to be privately owned, the building would still pose such a threat, according to the order.

The Rock Island County Board authorized demolition of the courthouse last July by a vote of 16-6. Braud cited this vote in his order.

He rebuked an objection to demolition made by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. In November, the DNR's State Historic Preservation Office revoked a letter of compliance it had issued in 2016 authorizing the construction of the Annex because it did not include demolition plans for the courthouse. Braud in his order wrote that the DNR has no jurisdiction over the courthouse. He states the circuit court is "specifically exempt" from the Illinois State Agency Historic Resources Preservation Act.

Braud also wrote that the proposed demolition is in compliance with state environmental regulations, after a notice of intent and stormwater pollution prevention plan were filed with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in December.

Judge mentioned the lawsuit brought by Rock Island-based architect Italo Milani that had saught to block demolition. That suit was dismissed in December by Circuit Court Judge James Conway. Braud says the deadline for Milani to appeal has passed.

No date has yet been set for demolition. It is pending a permit from the City of Rock Island. Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms has said the City will not issue a demolition permit until he receives approval from the state.

Braud wrote that he has consulted with the Rock Island County Board Chairman and the Public Building Commission Chairman, who he says are both in agreement to proceed with demolition as soon as possible.