Franklin County leaders consider tax referendum to build new courthouse

Franklin County leaders consider sales tax to build new courthouse

BENTON, IL (KFVS) - Franklin County leaders are considering putting a referendum to voters to raise funds for the construction of a new courthouse.

Franklin County Board chairman Randall Crocker said the county's Annex building located at 202 West Main Street in Benton requires major repairs and is his primary concern.

"It was probably built in the late 1940s," said Crocker. "It was originally built as a hotel so every room has a bathroom in it, but of course the plumbing is totally falling apart in the building, the cast iron sewer pipes are deteriorating, the facilities don't work any longer."

That's caused problems for the county employees who work in the Annex.

"Currently, we're sharing a bathroom that's way down the hall," said Franklin County deputy clerk Lisa Kay Muir. "One of them has a toilet, the other has a sink so we're having to go to two bathrooms to take care of business."

The county's more than 140-year-old courthouse on Benton's town square is also aging and in need of repairs.

"The biggest concern I have with the building aside from the function is the electrical," said Crocker "Although we have done some minor updates, it really needs a major update."

In 2015 voters rejected a .25 percent sales tax that would have made repairs to the county's courthouse and other buildings.

Crocker said building a new courthouse would be a better use of funds than continuing to pour taxpayer dollars into old buildings.

"There are two options: one's a sales tax and the other is a property tax," Crocker said. "I want the public to weigh in very heavily on that."

Crocker said the discussion is in its earliest stages, but would ideally involve a sales tax referendum to be put to voters next year.

"We've got to do something," Crocker said. "The longer we kick this can down the road the more critical it's going to become."

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