Board eyes financing plan for major capital improvement projects
7 year building plan includes new courthouse, sheriff's office, Health Dept.
"The Board is going to move forward with a Long Range Building Plan to make the county more efficient and adequately meet the demands for our ever growing population," said County Board Speaker Jim Moustis. "These are very important public safety needs, and along with continuing to improve and upgrade our roads, a necessary investment in our future. I look forward to reaching a consensus on a financing plan."
"We have examined all revenue options and put together a diverse package that includes existing property and sales taxes, courthouse and user fees, special funds, bonding rebates and contributions from the City of Joliet," said Mike Fricilone, chair of the county board's finance committee. "This is a fiscally responsible plan that doesn't raise taxes, uses existing revenues and only borrows what is necessary. I look forward to seeing ground broken next year and building a Will County for the future."
The current courthouse was built in 1969 when the county's population was 250,000; today the county has nearly 700,000 residents and is projected to grow to 1.2 million over the next 30 years. Its 23 courtrooms lack the necessary space and security and do not meet the minimum standards for safety and security as set by the Illinois Supreme Court. Will County has 35 judges, with one vacancy, who handle 80,000 cases annually.
The new courthouse and judicial complex will house between 30 and 36 courtrooms, with a satellite courthouse in the northern portion of the county housing several more. The judicial complex will hold judges and numerous other departments including court clerk, state’s attorney, public defender, court administration, jury commission, court reporters, and the probation department.
"All of these projects are crucial in addressing our long-term capital needs," said Ragan Freitag (R-Wilmington), chair of the county board's capital improvement's committee. "As a local attorney and frequent user of the courthouse, I see firsthand the importance of getting these projects underway and completed as soon as possible. The Sheriff's Office and Health Department are both overdue for new facilities that can meet the public safety needs of our county."
The Sheriff's Laraway Road campus will see new evidence storage and training buildings as well as a new administration building with space to consolidate public safety offices such as the Coroner's Office and Emergency Management services. Currently, there is a need for a central location for these functions that are now spread throughout the county. The Health Department will mark 70 years of service to Will County residents next year and provides comprehensive public health programs, behavioral health resources, and primary health care and dental services at facilities located in Joliet, Bolingbrook, and Monee.
The Board will continue discussions on the financing plan at a committee of the whole meeting on January 14 and could approve a plan as soon as next month.