County Board OKs $304,000 to fix courthouse
URBANA -- Champaign County Board members Thursday night approved spending about $304,000 on repairs and maintenance to the exterior masonry walls at the downtown Urbana courthouse.
The board also approved rezoning a parcel at the Triumph Industrial Park subdivision, about a mile north of Urbana and west of U.S. 45, for a firearms sales store and indoor shooting range.
The proposed courthouse work includes repairing cracked bricks, repointing cracked and open mortar joints, grinding and sealing minor cracks in the sandstone masonry and installing expansion joints on the south and west sides of the historic old section of the courthouse. On the newer, east portion of the building, work includes more minor repairs, plus low-pressure spray cleaning and degreasing and the application of a water repellant to prevent future staining and masonry deterioration.
Funding for the work will come from a Court Construction Fund.
But approval Thursday night was not without controversy.
Several board members noted that the new courthouse was built in 2001 and a courthouse masonry stabilization project was undertaken just five years ago in 2008.
Stan James, the rural Rantoul Republican who chairs the board's facilities committee, said "the industry standard" for a warranty on a construction project is one year.
"We'll try our best to get a little better warranty but with any warranty if you're going to extend it out, you're going to pay for it," he said. "Warranties are only as good as the lawyers we have fighting for them."
But Urbana Democrat Lloyd Carter, who described himself as a small contractor, said, "The buildings that I grew up with, they lasted longer than four or five years. You've got to go back and look at some that lasted 30 or 40 years. There's something wrong here."
"I'm very torn about this vote because I think we defer maintenance on a lot of buildings except that courthouse, which is treated like a Taj," said Champaign Democrat Josh Hartke.
James argued that the building needs to be maintained.
"Five years from now that ground can shift or a storm can come through. I can't guarantee anything and I don't think anyone in this room can," said James. "I hear this all the time but it's like everything in life, either with children or your own home or anything else. We have a priority list but if an emergency comes up or something is really looking at us in the face, that list sometimes moves by the wayside and we've got to take care of what's here right now."
The board also approved the appointments of Dianne Hays of Champaign to the Champaign County Board of Review and Jennifer Putman of Urbana to the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District board.
Of the 22 board members, two -- Democrat Rachel Schwartz and Republican Jon Schroeder -- were absent.