Board applauds passage of legislation to fund new judicial facilities
HB5889 gives authority to impose court filing fees not exceeding $30
The user fees would be imposed on parties in civil cases and defendants who plead guilty in criminal cases, but would not apply in traffic, ordinance and conservation cases when fines are paid without a court appearance. Depending on the structure set by the Board, the new user fee could raise as much as $2 million for the judicial facilities. Board members envision the judicial complex will house judges and numerous departments including court clerk, state's attorney, public defender, court administration, jury commission, court reporters, probation, and the sheriff.
"We are excited this new revenue stream has materialized, so we can now move forward expeditiously with our planning in cooperation with the City of Joliet," said Denise Winfrey (D-Joliet), chair of the capital improvements committee and the ad hoc courthouse committee. "Our judicial operations are in great need of a 21st century upgrade that will incorporate current technologies and advanced security while improving efficiency and flexibility. I am thankful legislators throughout Illinois understood this required an additional funding tool and took action."
The City of Joliet has indicated moving the judicial complex forward is vital to the city’s revitalization plan.
The county recently entered into a contract to purchase the First Midwest Bank building at 50 W. Jefferson St. in downtown Joliet and was joined by Mayor Tom Giarrante at the May Board meeting for a ceremonial signing of the contract. Closing on the property is expected this summer. Plans call for the building's upper floors to temporarily house offices currently in the county's EMCO building while it is being remodeled to consolidate the State's Attorney's Office. A new courthouse could eventually be built on the First Midwest property, which is across the street from the existing courthouse at 14 W. Jefferson St.
"Once preliminary design work begins, we will bring together the numerous judicial departments and stakeholders to develop a concept plan based on population projections, cost estimates, information gained from visiting other recently built courthouses, and ultimately the needs of those using the facilities on a daily basis," said Reed Bible (D-Plainfield), chair of the judicial committee. "This will be a comprehensive process to build a judicial complex for the people of Will County that will provide efficient services for many years to come."