Originally Posted Online: March 15, 2013, 4:52 pm
Last Updated: March 16, 2013, 5:06 pm
Understanding the Rock Island County Public Building Commission
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By Eric Timmons, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rock Island County Public Building Commission, recently pushed into the spotlight by a proposal to greatly expand its powers, is an obscure body that meets rarely and has little impact on the lives of county residents.
Its role could grow significantly if voters, in an April 9 referendum, approve a proposal to give the commission the full powers authorized in the Illinois Public Building Commission Act, allowing it to finance any county building project, such as a new courthouse or county administration building.
The commission was formed in 1981 with the sole purpose of financing and maintaining a new county jail. Later, the commission was used to finance the new Rock Island Justice Center, a second jail project.
The current members of the building commission are Ted Davies,Jim Gremanis,Bill Laird
LeRoy Peterson and Richard Janoski. They receive no compensation.
The Public Building Commission Act states that members of the commission must be experienced in either real estate management, building construction or finance.
Mr. Davies is the retired owner of Ted's Boatarama in Rock Island; Mr. Laird is an attorney; Mr. Janoski works as an instructor with the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration at Western Illinois University and Mr. Peterson and Mr. Gremanis are involved in real estate.
The county board chairman appoints the members of the commission to five-year terms and has the option of increasing the number of commissioners. Rock Island County Board Chairman Phil Banaszek has raised the possibility of increasing the commission's size.
How it works
Any public building commission in Illinois is technically an independent body with no taxing powers. However, for a PBC to become involved in a construction project, a municipal corporation with taxing powers like the county must request its assistance.
Once a project has been determined, the PBC selects and takes ownership of the site, according to a report compiled for the county by Rock Island County State's Attorney John McGehee.
The PBC then issues bonds of an amount sufficient to cover construction costs.
The PBC then leases the property back to the county in an amount equal to the amount needed to pay off the bonds and also if necessary to pay for maintenance. The county board would be asked to approve the lease agreement and then levy enough in property taxes to make the payments.
This is the arrangement the county has now with its PBC for the Rock Island Justice Center, which is still owned by the commission.
The county pays $1.49 million a year as a rental payment to the PBC for the justice center. The PBC returns around $500,000 annually to the county to cover maintenance costs and the bulk of the remainder is used to pay off bonds. The bonds issued to build the justice center will be retired in 2019 after which ownership of the building goes to the county.
If the PBC was used to build a new courthouse, a similar model would be followed.
What it does
The county's PBC met three times last year, according to a county official. The meetings were used to sign off on bond payments.
Retired county employee Carol Shrader works as the PBC's treasurer and is paid $300 a month for her service. The PBC's annual budget is $1.49 million, with a small amount set aside to cover office supplies and auditing after bond payments and the $500,000 for maintenance has been covered.
Current chairman Ted Davies was appointed to the commission when it was formed in 1981, and was tasked with financing a new county jail. At that time, the PBC's scope was limited to jail projects.
Now, a referendum is required to expand the PBC to give the full powers of the Public Building Commission Act. A "yes" vote in the referendum would allow the commission to finance any construction of new county buildings if asked by the county board to do so.
Other duties of the PBC include selecting an architect, approving and paying construction payments, bidding and approving all construction documents, approving construction change orders, and making all bond payments.
The Public Building Commission Act that allowed the formation of PBCs was passed in 1955. Other counties in Illinois with PBCs include Whiteside, Cook, Peoria, DuPage, Winnebago, Kankakee and Sangamon.