Court Filing Fees Could Help Pay for New Will County Courthouse

Proposed legislation would implement a $15 to $30 court filing fee to offset costs of building a brand-new Will County courthouse.

The existing courthouse was built in the 1960s. Credit: File photo
The existing courthouse was built in the 1960s. Credit: File photo
Will County is finalizing a deal to purchase what could become the site of a brand-new Will County Courthouse, and Joliet's city council is expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution to support legislation that could help fund the project.

"It's pretty close to a done deal," county board member Denise Winfrey (D-Joliet) said of Will County's efforts to purchase the old First Midwest Bank property, located at 50 W. Jefferson St. across from the existing courthouse.

Winfrey, chairwoman of the board's capital improvements committee, declined to say how much the county is looking to pay for the site, saying negotiations haven't been finalized.

On Tuesday, the Joliet city council will vote on a resolution to officially support legislation that would allow the county board to establish a $15 to $30 fee for court filings. The fee would help offset the cost of building a new courthouse on the site, a project that officials last year estimated could cost around $200 million.

"It's an attempt to begin to raise some of that money," Winfrey said of House Bill 5889, sponsored by State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr. (D-Joliet). Winfrey said the goal is to pass the legislation during the current session.

The First Midwest Bank site isn't the only possible location for a new courthouse. Last month, the county board hired Darien-based consultants Wight & Co. to look at several possible locations and find out which makes the most sense financially.

Many officials — including Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante — have pushed to keep the courthouse downtown.

"The impact for Joliet would be devastating" if the courthouse were to leave, Winfrey acknowledged. "We are not trying to do that," she added, saying the county board actively supports the revitalization of downtown Joliet. 

As for the existing courthouse, built in the 1960s, that will likely be repurposed, according to Winfrey. The site could be used to relieved cramped Will County office conditions or provide additional space for attorneys. The first floor also has the potential to be used as a commercial site, she said.

Winfrey said she expects the First Midwest purchase to be finalized "any day now."

The Joliet city council will vote on the resolution at its Tuesday night meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 150 W. Jefferson St.

Larry Newton April 14, 2014 at 07:37 PM
The courthouse is insecure and undersized. What better way to finance the cost of a new structure than user fees?
Baby Paul April 15, 2014 at 09:11 AM
The county board members should direct the money they were going to give themselves in raises toward this project.


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