Rock Island County voters turn down bid to finance courthouse


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Originally Posted Online: April 09, 2013, 11:16 pm
Last Updated: April 10, 2013, 10:52 am
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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

This story was updated April 9, 2013, to reflect the correct yes-no percentages in the Public Building Commission referendum.

 

Rock Island County voters on Tuesday soundly defeated a referendum proposal backed by judges and county officials to finance construction of a new courthouse.

The question asked voters was whether they support expanding the authority of the Rock Island County Public Building Commission, which has been limited to jail projects.

A "yes" vote would have allowed the county board to direct the commission to finance construction of a new courthouse.But voters rejected the proposal by a 61-39 margin.

Illinois 14th Judicial Circuit Court judges who use the courthouse had pushed for the referendum, arguing that the courthouse was in a serious state of disrepair and does not meet guidelines set by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Chief Judge Jeffrey O'Connor served the county with an intent to sue over the condition of the courthouse in December and the judges could now proceed with a lawsuit.Judge O'Connor was unavailable for comment after election results were released Tuesday.

Rock Island County Board Chairman Phil Banaszek said the referendum result was "unfortunate" but thanked all of the voters who participated in the process.

Expanding the powers of the public building commission also would have allowed the county to finance renovations or construction of other county properties, including the county's administration building, which also is in need of updates.

"The situation with the courthouse and the administration building don't change," Mr. Banaszek said. "We've still got to find a way to solve those problems."

A special committee established by Mr. Banaszek to look at options for the future of the courthouse meets today and will discuss the referendum result.

The committee is co-chaired by Rock Island County Board member Brian Vyncke, D-Moline. He had been a critic of the referendum question on Tuesday's ballot, which did not offer any specifics on the courthouse project, as being too vague.

But Mr. Vyncke said the referendum result would now allow the county board to get more information on the scope and size of the courthouse project. The county could then return to the public with a more specific referendum question in the spring of next year, he said.

In a second referendum, 65 percent of voters backed an advisory question to retain single-member districts on the county board, with 34 percent voting against the proposition.

The board has 25 members elected from single-member districts now, and Mr. Banaszek had proposed the referendum question. In November, a large majority of voters backed an advisory question to cut the size of the county board to 15 members, elected from three districts.

Mr. Banaszek said that if enacted the change would dilute representation on the board of minorities and rural areas.






 














 



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