Will County officials consider developing website for courthouse project

JOLIET – With courthouse design plans moving forward, Will County officials on Tuesday discussed developing a website to inform the public and field questions from residents.

“We need a streamlined process. There are going to be more and more questions from constituents, and we want to give them the consideration and respect they deserve,” said Will County Capital Improvements Chairman Ragan Freitag, R-Wilmington.

The Chicago-based Gilbane Construction was selected in March to be the courthouse project construction manager. The company was selected, in part, because it prioritized community outreach and suggested developing a website with the county, she said.

Will County Board members suggested during Tuesday’s Will County Capital Improvements Committee that project details and a frequently asked questions section would be included if a website is created.

“I think it’s a good idea to do a website, so all the questions can be on the website, and if we have the answers, we have the answers. We can refer people to the site,” said committee member Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen. “That’s full transparency at that point.”

One correspondence referenced Tuesday was a March 16 letter from the Will County Chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society. In the letter, the organization's president, Rita Renwick, raises concern about project renderings that were provided by the county and appeared in local media.

“It appears that the new county courthouse will have large expanses of glass on its surface,” the letter states. “It has been estimated that from 100 million to 1 billion birds a year die after colliding with buildings and other man-made structures. ... Birds are unable to detect glass as a barrier and avoid it. They perceive they are flying into the sky as seen in a reflection.”

Freitag and other board members said Tuesday those design renderings were just that – renderings. The final design may not include the large glass facade.

Freitag said after Tuesday’s meeting that Will County Executive Larry Walsh’s office responded to Renwick’s letter. However, she added, a system needs to be in place so questions and concerns are answered in a timely manner.

To pay for the 11-story courthouse, and a number of other capital projects, the Will County Board is issuing of up to $275 million in bonds. The project initiative also includes a northern satellite courthouse, a sheriff’s facility on Laraway Road and a health department.

Construction of the sheriff’s facility on Laraway Road is slated to start in September.

Dave Tkac, deputy chief of staff for the Will County Executive Office, said he hopes to have a courthouse design team put together by June.