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Tazewell County Courthouse could soon be replaced

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 6:54 PM CDT
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PEKIN (Heart of Illinois ABC) - The centerpiece of Downtown Pekin, the Tazewell County Courthouse may soon be replaced.

The County Board is in the early planning stages of doing so, using their bank of more than $20 million in American Rescue Plan (ARPA) stimulus money. The deadline for using some of the allotted money is 2026, and there is not a definite cost estimate yet.

“When that courthouse was built, our main mode of transportation was horse and buggy,” 10th Judicial Circuit of Illinois Chief Judge Kate Gorman said.

The current courthouse opened in 1916 and cost around $250,000, according to county records. Tazewell County Board Chairman David Zimmerman says the building is showing several signs of age and is become too costly to maintain.

“When you look at what we’re spending on maintaining some of these older buildings, versus building new, it actually will be as cost effective in the long-term as it is putting band-aids on some of these older buildings,” Zimmerman said.

Judge Gorman served on the bench at the courthouse in 2020. She says, in addition to maintenance, the courthouse needs more security and more privacy for defendants. Currently, the Sheriff’s Office must drive in-custody defendants over to the courthouse for proceedings and must take the public elevator. That must be done out of sight of any jury members, who are not allowed to know whether the defendant is in custody or not.

“The old courthouse. Everybody can see everything. It’s like a fishbowl,” Gorman said. “A new building would allow everything to be under one roof.”

The new courthouse is one of several options being discussed by the board right now, including remodeling the existing historic building. No matter what, the county plans to demolish two buildings across the street from the courthouse by year’s end. They are the Arcade Building, which the county has owned for years, and the Tobin Building, which the county recently purchased.

The ARPA plans could also see a new health department location added in either Pekin or another Tazewell County Community. The county also plans to move employees out of two other buildings, including the Tazewell Building and the old Post Office building just south of the current courthouse.

None of the options being considered would include demolishing the current courthouse. The board has not taken any official action on any of the plans yet, but has meetings planned this week.

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