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Woodstock denied grant to restore courthouse

WOODSTOCK – Restoration of the historical Old Courthouse dome and front limestone stairs have been put on hold after the city was rejected for a grant to offset the projects’ cost.

The city applied for a Richard B. Driehaus Courthouse Initiatives Grant from Landmarks Illinois last summer to fund part of a nearly $170,000 dome restoration and $15,000 project to repair the stairs. Work on the projects tentatively was to begin early this year. It’s been pushed back indefinitely while the city explores other ways to come up with funding.

“It’s huge, because we were pretty optimistic after speaking with the representatives from the granting agency. We almost thought it was a slam dunk,” City Manager Tim Clifton said. “The decision-makers, as opposed to the staff that pulls all the papers together and makes the recommendation, decided otherwise.”

Landmarks Illinois rejected the city’s proposal mainly because of Woodstock’s stated desire to eventually turn the property over to the private sector, Clifton said.

Last fall, the city laid out about $2.06 million in restoration projects within a five-year capital improvement program. An architect’s report suggested a future private owner would need to invest an additional $1.95 million in the courthouse and $720,000 in the Sheriff’s House to complete the project.

In the interim of larger repairs, the city has begun a $17,000 project to shore up the dome to keep out water and birds.

Clifton stressed the importance of finding the funding to complete the projects as they are laid out in the capital improvement program. They are important to the structural integrity and the appearance of the property, he said.

“We’ll need to look at some other granting sources, both public and not-for-profit,” Clifton said. “And then discuss with the council, in terms of priorities, how this is going to compete with other public infrastructure projects that the city needs to fund in the coming years.”

Clifton said he thinks the city will find alternative funding.

“This was one that fit the bill perfectly, and we were led to believe that it stood a good chance,” he said.

“We didn’t look at other scenarios or go down other avenues because we were hopeful that this was going to be successful.”

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