Spire put atop Champaign County Courthouse

Spire put atop Champaign County Courthouse

URBANA – Downtown Urbana denizens got a taste of the future Wednesday as the Champaign County Courthouse was topped off.

With the addition of its spire, the courthouse tower now stands at 130 feet.

But the courthouse renovation may not be done for months, and a metal sheath resembling copper still has to be added.

Workmen were a little nervous at Tuesday's lunch-hour spire-raising, wondering what winds might do with the steel-framed pyramid.

Wind speeds were up 20 miles per hour at Willard Airport, State Climatologist Jim Angel said, but should have been lower in town.

Steve Beckett, the rural Urbana Democrat who heads the Champaign County Board's facilities committee, said he was delighted, if not inspired, by the raising.

"It's amazing. The work is going so fast, I pinch myself," he said. "It's almost impossible to imagine it's happening."

The $6 million project is going up a little ahead of schedule and within budget, said county Co-Administrator Denny Inman.

The work is expected to be done in August 2009; earlier, backers had hoped it could be done in time for Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday in February 2009. The Great Emancipator practiced law at a predecessor of the 1901 courthouse.

Inman said February was too much to hope for, but the project could still be completed ahead of schedule.

"It's weather-dependent. If we have a real mild winter, the masonry work could continue," Inman said.

Demolition work found that water infiltration had severely damaged bricks at two corners of the old courthouse, he said.

"This is a building that has had considerable issues over time," he said.

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