Will County Board members want special meeting on old courthouse

Demolition could take place by October

will county courthouse, government

Eight Will County Board members on Wednesday filed a request for a special meeting to consider putting a hold on demolition of the old courthouse until an analysis is done on the potential benefits of redeveloping the building.

The request by eight board members triggers a special meeting, although a date has not been set yet, member Daniel Butler, R-Frankfort, said.

“We just want to get it on the agenda,” Butler said. “We want to get some research done on this and see if it would be a viable project.”

Butler earlier in the day at a Will County Board meeting tried to bring up a non-binding resolution calling for the redevelopment analysis and stalling demolition.

But County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant turned him down with advice from attorney that the board could not vote on a matter that was not on its meeting agenda. Will County Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Tatro said such a vote would violate the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Butler, however, was able to discuss the matter.

Will County Board Member Daniel Butler, R-Frankfort, at the board's meeting on Wednesday, July 19, 2023.

“If we don’t have an idea of what we’re doing there and we demolish the building, we take a very big option off the table,” he said.

The County Board in 2019 voted unanimously to demolish the building, which is in downtown Joliet.

Bertino-Tarrant points to that vote and a state’s attorney opinion that the site must be used for a public purpose in advocating for demolition, which could occur as soon as October.

In June, Bertino-Tarrant announced her own vision to convert the site into a government complex that would centralize offices for the county and accommodate a new City Hall for Joliet.

Butler is one of a growing number of County Board members joining preservationists who want to save the building, which was built in 1969 and vacated in November 2020 when the new courthouse opened.

Just how many members might favor slowing down demolition could be a result of the special meeting on the Butler resolution.

“It means that there actually will be a vote that shows the real position of every county board member,” said Hudson Hollister, co-chairman of the Courthouse Preservation Partnership.