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Courthouse future high on list in Woodstock

WOODSTOCK – While one city official touted the historic importance of the old McHenry County Courthouse, another referred to it as a “bogey.”

At the city’s annual golf-themed State of the City address on Thursday, City Manager Tim Clifton drew comparisons from the sport to various city initiatives and departments. For example, “green fees” was Clifton’s reference to the Finance Department.

At the 16th hole, Clifton compared the Old Courthouse to a bogey. In golf, a bogey is one stroke over par.

The city officially took ownership of the building this year after a lengthy court battle. The building was accepted as a donation, but the city paid $110,000 for its acquisition.

The City Council in January hired a Rockford-based architectural firm, Gary W. Anderson Architects, to compile an in-depth report on the condition of the courthouse. The report is finished, officials said, but has not been publicly released.

The report identifies improvement projects and how much those improvements will cost. City staff are “perfecting” the report before planning a joint meeting with the Historic Preservation Commission to discuss its specifics.

Earlier this year, the firm found what it called “significant neglect” of the building.

The city long has said that it does not want to maintain ownership of the Old Courthouse and hopes to put it in private hands. Inevitably, repairs will be needed before advertising the building for what officials are calling proposals for “adaptive reuse.”

“The courthouse needs improvements,” Clifton said. However, the city wants to do “minimal improvements to return it to the private sector.”

Mayor Brian Sager, on the other hand, is confident that the city’s hand was essential in preserving the building and its historic integrity.

“Most individuals ... believe it is absolutely essential that we preserve this beautiful historic structure,” Sager said.

It could be an additional year to 18 months before the building would be in a condition where Woodstock is ready to request proposals for its reuse, Sager said.

“It’s going to take time; we’re going to move slowly to make sure we’re doing everything appropriately,” he said.

The funds for anything related to the Old Courthouse will and have come from the city’s downtown tax increment financing district.

The annual State of the City was sponsored by the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Industry and took place at the Woodstock Country Club.

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