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Courthouse renovations shift from sealing efforts to larger projects

Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 5:05 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 10, 2013 11:20 p.m. CDT
(File photo)
Opened in in 1858, Woodstock's Old Courthouse was home to McHenry County government and the courts system through the 1970s when the county moved operations to Route 47 and Ware Road.

WOODSTOCK – Old Courthouse renovation efforts have been slow to show much visible improvement to passersby, but that soon could change as the city shifts its focus toward larger projects, including a new roof and dome, officials said.

In the early going, officials have focused on high-priority repairs inside to seal the building from the outside elements and protect against further damage. Those efforts are ongoing – the building took on water during last month’s extensive rains that led to area flooding – but the city has started turning its attention to larger projects.

Repairs to the roof and iconic dome should be cleared to go to bid at the next City Council meeting, set for May 21.

“I think people are going to start to see some of the improvements,” said Cort Carlson, Woodstock community and economic development director. “It’s exciting to see our plans take shape.”

Restoration of the dome and limestone steps was postponed earlier this year when the city found out it was denied a Richard B. Driehaus Courthouse Initiatives Grant from Landmarks Illinois. Officials had expected the money to fund a large chunk of the two projects, which have an estimated cost of $185,000.

Instead, the city will dip deeper into funds from its tax increment finance district. Work already has begun on the limestone steps, City Manager Roscoe Stelford said.

“The vast majority of this is funded through the TIF,” Stelford said.

In a five-year capital improvement plan laid out last fall, officials determined about $2.06 million in repairs were needed to get the courthouse ready to sell to a private owner.

That private owner would need to invest an additional $1.95 million in the courthouse and $720,000 in the Sheriff’s House, the report said.

“[We have] the ultimate goal of transferring it back to private hands to come in and make it back to a thriving, successful business center, whether its shopping, dining, whatever,” Carlson said. “We’re looking forward to it being back in private hands and back on the tax rolls.”

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