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Local News

County board to mull $2.28 million in tweaks to courthouse design

Chief judge, board members speak in favor of add-ons

The Will County Board will decide in June whether to add some features to the proposed $195 million Will County Judicial Complex.
The Will County Board will decide in June whether to add some features to the proposed $195 million Will County Judicial Complex.

JOLIET – The Will County Board is contemplating whether to add about $2.28 million in features to the county’s next courthouse.

Consultants have worked toward a target of $195 million for the new Will County Judicial Complex, as directed by the board months ago. On Thursday, the board held a special meeting to get the entire board up to speed on the project.

Architecture firm Wight & Co. presented the board with what the county could get for the $195 million. The design, to this point, has focused on functionality and necessities as the firm tried to incorporate requests from various user groups, such as the judiciary and circuit clerk’s office. During the process, many wants were eliminated to drive the cost down.

But Wight & Co. made a list of recommendations the firm believes could save the county money in the long run and take the building to the next level aesthetically and functionally.

Wight & Co. Vice President Jason Dwyer highlighted a handful of options.

The firm is recommending a water softening system to handle Joliet’s “hard” water. Without the system, the firm has warned that plumbing will have to be replaced more frequently.

The firm suggested a sixth elevator be fully built out. The current plan has five elevators, with a sixth getting installed later when population rises, in an effort to save costs now. But consultants say it will cost three times as much to add it later.

Dwyer also is recommending indoor and outdoor flooring that will cost more short term but will last longer.

Wight & Co. suggested precast concrete paver units for the exterior plaza, rather than concrete pavement. Dwyer said the units are easier and cheaper to replace than repaving an entire surface.

The firm also suggested terrazzo flooring instead of tile in the main lobby. Consultants said that tiles’ grout joints get dirty and are hard to maintain, while a terrazzo floor can last forever if done well.

Will County Chief Judge Richard Schoenstedt spoke to the board Thursday in favor of the add-ons, noting he wanted to ensure it was functional first and foremost, but in some cases you can make exceptions to make the building look and feel right.

“It’s important that when people are in front of a judge they know the importance of what they’re doing,” Schoenstedt said. “We want to put them emotionally and mentally in a state where they understand all this, and that doesn’t start when they’re in front of a judge, in a courtroom or in public hallways. It starts when they approach the building.”

The county currently has 36 judges, with a right to two more because of population increases, Schoenstedt said. But they have nowhere to put them in the current courthouse, and he expects the county to be granted two more with the 2020 census.

“We have the right to a new associate judge for every 35,000 new population from one census to the next, by law,” he said.

The board has intended to leave two floors as shells and install courtrooms in them at a later date, but Schoenstedt and some board members spoke Thursday in favor of building out all 38 courtrooms right off the bat.

The fully built complex with all add-ons would be in the $215 million range, but the county’s superior bond rating would allow it to take on the higher cost, Finance Committee Chair Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, said.

The Capital Improvements Committee will next discuss the proposals June 6.

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