Ad Hoc Committee Formed to Eye Former Courthouse Developments

will county courthouse

By Nick Reiher

It may not be a formal stay of execution, but County Board members trying to save the former Will County Courthouse gained a toehold November 2.

The Will County Executive Committee narrowly approved a proposal by Board Member Sherry Williams, D-Crest Hill, to form an ad hoc committee that would review issues with the former courthouse, including the contract approved by the full board for demolition.

Board Member Dan Butler, R-Frankfort, has been adamant that the contract will not cover all the costs for debris removal.
The Will County Executive’s Office and Assistant State’s Attorney Mary Tatroe said the contract is all-inclusive. Asbestos remediation already has taken place.

Asked if the contract could be terminated if found to be lacking, Tatroe said she would have to look at the language.

Asked about the formation of the ad hoc committee, County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant said the County Board approved the contract, and she plans to go ahead with the demolition unless advised by the State’s Attorney’s Office otherwise.

The application for demolition, which would have to be signed off on by several city departments, has not yet been submitted.
Joliet attorney Hudson Hollister, whose group has fought since late 2019 to preserve the courthouse for re-development, has tried to have the city’s Historic Preservation Commission declare the land around the former courthouse as a landmark.

But since the City Council already rejected landmark status for the courthouse, Hollister’s group would have to wait a year before submitting another application, said Todd Greenberg, interim corporation counsel.

“Also, you can’t separate a building from the lot it’s on,” Greenberg added. “Legally, it’s all one entity.”

Butler and other board members on both sides of the aisle have said it would be a waste to demolish the 54-year-old building, rather than to repurpose it, without a formal countywide building study. County Board Chair Judy Ogalla, who was not present at the November 2 Executive Committee meeting, has authorized a study.

Following demolition, the contractor will grade the property, which county officials say will be open greenspace until they are ready to build a new county office building on the site.

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