Posted Online: April 16, 2013, 9:31 pm

RICo to borrow from judge's fund to pay for courthouse study

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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

Rock Island County will borrow $250,000 from a fund controlled by Chief Judge Jeffrey O'Connor and Circuit Clerk Lisa Bierman to cover the cost of studies on the scope of a proposed new courthouse.

The county board approved an intergovernmental agreement to borrow the money from the courthouse automation fund.The fund is used to establish and maintain automated systems for keeping court records.

Rock Island County Board Chairman Phil Banaszek said the money likely will be used to fund a space needs assessment. The study would determine how much space the county would need if a new courthouse were developed.

In a referendum during the April 9 election, voters rejected a proposal to expand the authority of the county's public building commission so that it could be used to finance the courthouse project.

The county board is likely to pursue a new referendum next March on the courthouse, but Mr. Banaszek and other county officials want to have more information on the scope of the project before then.

The loan from the courthouse automation fund provides an alternative way to pay for a space needs assessment. The public building commission cannot be used to fund the study because it is limited to jail projects only.

The county board already has sought requests for qualifications from consultants interested in performing a space needs assessment.

Mr. Banaszek said the proposals range in cost from about $60,000 to as much as $400,000. A special committee established to study the courthouse issue will assess the proposals and make a recommendation to the full county board.

The courthouse does not meet minimum guidelines set by the Illinois Supreme Court and 14th Judicial Circuit judges led by Chief Judge O'Connor have been pushing for construction of a new courthouse.

Judge O'Connor served the county with an intent to sue in December but has put the lawsuit "on hold" to allow the county board to work to find a solution to the problem.

In other business Tuesday, the county board again tabled a proposedelectric transmission agreement with Rock Island Clean Line LLC. The company wants to run a high-powered transmission line through the northern part of the county, but the project has been opposed by landowners.

Supporters and opponents of the project spoke at Tuesday's meeting but the board voted 14-9 in favor of a motion from Rock Island County member Chris Filbert, R-Cordova, to table the agreement.

Ms. Filbert said the county should not approve an agreement until the Illinois Commerce Commission has given the project the all-clear.The proposed agreement would see the county earn about $62,000 per year for 20 years from the transmission line.