Preservationists still trying to save RICO Courthouse one month from demo

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Ongoing plans to demolish the Rock Island County Courthouse remain a source of controversy. There’s still a group of preservationists hoping to save the historic building.

It will cost $1.6 million to tear down and clear out the asbestos inside. That money comes from bonds used to maintain the Justice Center. While people agree the money can be used to build the new courthouse, there’s debate whether it should be used to fund demolishing the old one.

“We’ve been coming to the meetings for six months. We’ve been active,” said Bridget Ehrmann, a Rock Island citizen who opposes the demolition. “We’ve said what we need to say over and over again and it doesn’t seem to be changing anybody’s mind.” 

Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee said at this point it would take a court order from a judge to stop the demolition.

“It would be kind of a difficult thing for anyone to do, but it’s possible,” he said.

Ehrmann is hoping a case questioning the legality of using bonds does just that. It’s asking the court to issue an order saying it’s illegal to use the bond money on the demo. 

But McGehee said based on legal advice they gave to the county board the old courthouse counts. That’s because it’s so close to the new building.

“It has become a very emotional issue, but all the legal issues have been examined backwards and forwards,” he said.

Ehrmann is hoping the legal action works and saves the a vital piece of history.

“It means a lot to me because it means a lot to my community,” she said. “We’ll never see anything like this replicated again in our lifetime.”

Even if the legal action doesn’t work, Ehrmann said she wants county officials to know that citizens are watching. 

“It’s become bigger than the courthouse, although that’s the main objective,” she said.

There was supposed to be a hearing about the legality of the bonds Tuesday, but it was delayed. Demolition is scheduled to start Dec. 31. 
 

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