Vermilion courthouse needs 'some serious overhaul'

DANVILLE — It has been more than 20 years since the Vermilion County Courthouse in downtown Danville underwent a three-year renovation that took the 100-year-old building down to bare walls. Now, there are signs that another overhaul is necessary.

In a fifth-floor office in the probation department, green hose stretches from an opening in the ceiling to the floor where a bucket catches water from a leak traced back to the worn-out roof. The same hose-and-bucket setup is in a jury room on the fourth floor, and over in Circuit Judge Craig DeArmond's courtroom on the same floor, cracks in the wall near the ceiling mark the site of another leak.

Mark Cravens, buildings and grounds supervisor for the county, said roof repairs were made several months ago that have stopped a lot of the leaking.

"We're not getting near the leaks we were, but it is an ongoing problem," Cravens said.

The roof is just one of the big-ticket items being compiled on a list for another renovation of the courthouse that's being planned by county officials.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon said the entire building is being analyzed with input from officeholders and department heads on strengths and weaknesses.

"It will need some serious overhaul," he said. "It will take a bond issue."

McMahon said there hasn't been significant money put into the courthouse in years, but it's an approximately $42 million building that the county can't allow to be destroyed. He has enlisted John Weaver, director of the Public Building Commission which maintains the Public Safety Building and juvenile detention center, to lead the effort to determine what needs to be done.

Weaver said he is working with architects and engineers to make those determinations and attach cost estimates.

McMahon said it will probably take $5 million to $10 million to do the job, and he anticipates bringing all of this to the county board in early 2013. By then, McMahon said, he should be able to tell county board members exactly what needs to be done, how it can be financed and how much it will cost the county per year to pay for the financing.

"At the same time, we must look at plans to maintain this building on a yearly basis rather than waiting 20 years again when it falls apart," McMahon said.

He said renovations would require long-range financial planning as well as logistical planning, because the construction phase would require courthouse employees in various departments to be displaced temporarily.

McMahon and Weaver anticipate using the extra space at the county's health and education building, 200 S. College St., that houses the Vermilion County Health Department and the Regional Office of Education. The building has vacant space, because program cuts at the health department in early 2011 significantly reduced the number of employees.

McMahon said he does not want to lease space if the county can make some changes at the health and education building to accommodate displaced workers. He said he's committed to the most affordable route.

Weaver said the work wouldn't be nearly as extensive as the last renovation in the late 1980s, but it will be a complex undertaking especially considering the temporary displacement of workers. Weaver anticipates moving the county's probation department from the fifth, or top, floor of the courthouse to the health and education building for up to two years during renovations. Then other departments would be rotated into the vacant space on the fifth floor as renovations were done in their work areas.

Weaver said, at this point, renovations would include a new roof, elevators, new heat pumps, computer wiring and upgrading, possibly some security system upgrades, storage improvements and more. The county's maintenance department is moving out of its space in the basement of the courthouse, and that area will be transformed into file storage space.

Weaver said there are boxes containing files and documents stacked all over in offices, and it's not an effective way to store that material.

McMahon said the planning will consistently move forward this year.

"But not until January will we have all the data, so they (county board) can make a business decision," he said.

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