Fourteenth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Jeffrey O'Connor is considering asking the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to inspect the Rock Island County Courthouse.
Judge O'Connor wants to win over the public to his view a new courthouse needs to be built ahead of a referendum in April that could create a way to fund the project.
He said the 116-year-old building is in bad shape, and bringing OSHA in to assess it could help the public understand the need for a new courthouse.
"You've got to be able to demonstrate that it's got to go before you start spending a lot of money," Judge O'Connor said. "I'll be a part of anything that will get that across."
The referendum in April willask voters if they support expanding the powers of the Rock Island County Public Building Commission, which was established to build the county jail.
The building commission could then borrow money to build a courthouse. The same mechanism was used to fund construction of the Rock Island County Justice Center.
In an interview on Monday with the editorial board of The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, Judge O'Connor said the building cannot be heated properly, has mold problems and likely is not in compliance with fire safety and disabled access codes.
"The time has long come and gone to do something," he said.
If the referendum is approved, the Rock Island County Board would have to decide where a courthouse would be built, and study cost and space requirements.
The board also could decide to build a new county office building through the expanded powers of the building commission to replace the existing building across from the courthouse that houses various county offices.
Judge O'Connor said there was a possibility the courthouse could be closed down by OSHA or because of a structural or mechanical failure.
He said he understands a proposal to build a new courthouse for tens of millions of dollars will be met with skepticism by some, but he said he hopes a public awareness campaign can convince voters the need is real.
"Nobody's trying to hoodwink anybody and get a fancy building," he said.
The county board voted last week to put the referendum question about the authority of the building commission on the April 9 local election ballot.
Today is Monday, May 20, the 140th day of 2013. There are 225 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: A petition is being circulated asking the city council to order awell bored in Market Square. It would be a great accommodation to the public. 1888 -- 125 years ago: At 1 p.m. on May 18 the Mississippi River flooded its banks atRock Island and destroyed the warehouse of the Rock Island Lumber Co. and damagedRock Island Arsenal power plant. Total loss is estimated at $100,000. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Residents of Sough Rock Island Township are circulating apetition favoring the annexation of that area to the City of Rock Island. 1938 -- 75 years ago: A group of state members of the National Grandmothers Clubmeeting in Rock Island are making plans to petition for the observance of a NationalGrandmothers Day. 1963 -- 50 years ago: Deere and Co. reported today that its U.S. and Canadian sales forthe first half of the 1963 fiscal year set an all time record of $323,716.628. 1988 -- 25 years ago: William G. Lawrence, first administrative director, has retired fromPECO Enterprises, Inc. Prior to his service at PECO, Mr. Lawrence was the civilianpersonnel officer at the Rock Island Arsenal.