|The Knox County Board is no closer now to figuring out what they want to do with the Knox County Courthouse, than they were before their meeting Wednesday night.
The board voted nine-to-five to table a proposed agreement to hire an architect to do a study of two potential options: build a new county courthouse, or remodel the existing facility. A third option, to move non-judicial offices out of the courthouse and into some other downtown facility, never made it out of the board's Building Committee.
The study would have cost $16,000.
The motion to table the proposal came from District-Two Democrat Paul Stewart, who says one the third option needs to return to the table.
"It's a possibility that this might be the least expensive option," Stewart said. "We have the obligation to the public to consider all options, in terms of how much (this is) going to cost."
That puts Stewart at odds with fellow District-Two Democrat and Board Chair Greg Bacon. Bacon tells WGIL he didn't have to bring any option to the County Board for a vote, and thinks at some point everyone just has to move on.
"Mr. Stewart keeps bringing up the option that got voted out (of committee)," Bacon said. "It's a democratic society; you win some, you lose some. And at some point, you've gotta...it's like kicking a dead horse. I could bring it up for a hundred years and, until it passes, people are going to get tired listening to me."
Bacon says he could sign the contract to conduct the study without the board's consent, but brought it to them as a courtesy, and doesn't yet know what he'll do.
No matter what happens, resident Anna Sophia Johnson told the board the money could be better spent on buying a new boiler and elevator for the current courthouse, and repair the electrical system so it can serve all those needs, and she believes that would make everyone happy.
"The County Board can please both the lovers of the 'old' and the lovers of the 'new' by maintaining the judicial function of the 'old' courthouse and transferring non-judicial offices to somewhere bright and shiny and 'new,'" Johnson said.
A letter presented Wednesday night that was written in November and obtained by WGIL News from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency says the facility is structurally sound and can continue to serve the county and its residents long into the future. READ THE LETTER BY CLICKING HERE. (Editor's note: the letter was provided to WGIL on blue paper, and affected our scanning of the document to make it a pdf file.)
The board Wednesday night voted to use money from the Knox County Landfill to cover expenses in the current county budget that are owed by the state, but may not be paid for awhile. Any money must be paid back by the end of the fiscal year.
The Knox County Board last night also voted to accept a lease-purchase agreement that will total about $558,000 for the purchase of a new compactor for the Knox County Landfill, and entered into a $10,000 structural engineering agreement for a proposed new bridge about a mile northwest of Rio.
(Jan Occhi, left, was honored for her years of service on the Knox County Board Wednesday night by Wayne Saline, right. Occhi stepped down from the board to move out of the county, and has been replaced by Pamela Davidson. WGIL News Story and Photo by Will Stevenson.)