Old courthouse attracts vandalism, Will County official says

The Will County Board passed a resolution calling for the demolition of the old courthouse back in 2019

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Nearly a year after Will County officials celebrated the completion of a new courthouse in downtown Joliet, the old courthouse been targeted in numerous acts of vandalism.

Dave Tkac, the county’s director of facilities and capital programming, told the Will County Board’s Capital Improvements Committee of the concern last week. Tkac said recently a few windows have been broken and that the glass in these windows doesn’t shatter, but if broken could fall in large, sharpe chunks.

“To have broken windows over there is a problem and a liability,” he told the committee.

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County spokesman Mike Theodore said addressing the vandalism, along with other expenses like keeping the building up to code, continues to cost the county money. He said it was difficult at this stage to put a dollar figure on that cost.

Tkac said during the meeting that elected officials have expressed interest in moving forward with the demolition of the old courthouse. The Will County Board passed a resolution in 2019 supporting the demolition of the facility after the new courthouse was completed.

The board said in the resolution that renovating the building was not in the county’s best interest because such a project would be difficult and costly given the floor plans and the state of the facility.

Tkac said there were a few matters that officials needed to sort through before actually tearing down the building.

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First, he said, the county needed to work with ComEd to relocate a substation in the lower level of the old courthouse which provides power to some businesses in downtown Joliet.

“That’s got to be one of the first steps that is undertaken,” Tkac said.

In addition, Tkac said, the county needs to get an updated cost estimate for the building’s demolition. The county would also need to pay for the abatement of asbestos in the building, which was built in 1968. Tkac said the asbestos abatement alone could cost the county around $500,000.

There are also memorials to the county’s law enforcement officers which would have to be removed from the property.

Finally, the county board will have to determine the future use of the site on Jefferson Street next to existing courthouse.

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One board member suggested that officials re-think the prior decision to demolish the courthouse.

“I believe that our board has acted in haste,” said member Jackie Traynere, D-Bolingbrook. “Since nothing’s happened with the old courthouse, I still think we have the ability to make a change and not move forward with demolition.”

Member Rachel Ventura, D-Joliet, said the land the old courthouse sits on is designated for public use so the county is limited in how it can use it. She said she and a previous member had argued for converting the land into a public park.

Committee Chair Herbert Brooks Jr., D-Joliet, asked the state’s attorney’s office look further into the legal questions surrounding the use of the land for further discussion next month.