Will County, City of Joliet agree to financing package for new courthouse, construction slated for 2017
City will contribute $12.3 million over 20 years for $150 million downtown courthouse
"We are pleased to announce this partnership with the City of Joliet to keep this critical public safety project moving in the right direction," said County Board Speaker Jim Moustis. "The county needs a new courthouse, and we will build a new courthouse that won't require us to raise taxes or overburden our residents. We have an aggressive timeline for completion, but I believe reaching this agreement makes it more feasible than ever."
The current courthouse was built in 1969 when the county's population was 250,000; today the county has nearly 700,000 residents. 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 economic impact of the project was an important reason for the county and city to forge a partnership. An estimated 600 jobs will be created once ground is broken, and the downtown Joliet area will greatly benefit.
"Today's announcement is vitally important for the continued cooperation between the City of Joliet and Will County, as well as the benefits and new jobs the project will bring to the city," said Joliet Mayor Bob O'Dekirk. "The new courthouse will be an anchor in downtown Joliet and a huge boost to our economic development efforts."
For a new courthouse and judicial complex, a preliminary study done by the county proposed a 400,000-square-foot facility with 42 courtrooms. Plans now call for a scaled back facility with between 30 and 36 courtrooms, with the option to build satellite courthouses in the northern and eastern portions of the county. The proposed judicial complex will house judges and numerous other departments including court clerk, state’s attorney, public defender, court administration, jury commission, court reporters, and the probation department.
"We have been studying a number of options and are moving toward a decision that meets our future needs," said Will County Executive Larry Walsh. "The choices we face are difficult and will force some tough decisions on how limited county funds will be spent to meet our capital requirements. What we have heard here today is a step towards supplemental funding as we continue our search for a dedicated revenue source for this important project."
The county will now work on completing a funding plan for the project.
"We will build a courthouse we can afford without raising taxes," said Mike Fricilone, chair of the county board's finance committee. "We are exploring all revenue options, and Joliet's contributions are an important piece of that financial puzzle. I look forward to putting it all together and investing in a new courthouse that gives taxpayers the best return on their money."