Voter question: Will cuts or taxes pay for Massac County Courthouse renovation?

MASSAC COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Massac County leaders will begin planning repairs to the Massac County Courthouse whether or not Tuesday's sales tax referendum aimed at funding the project is approved.

Massac County residents currently own a 74-year-old courthouse that has fallen into such disrepair it's illegal for county workers to operate business in certain parts of it for sake of their health.

Paint is peeling from the walls due to apparent water damage in most rooms on the upper stories, and tarps and garbage bags protect vital county records from the elements.

On the bright side, residents also have a donated bank building where they can attend court.

The problem: neither of those buildings is "good enough" to operate as a courthouse by reckoning of the state and now, county leaders are being forced to make some sort of change.

"They should have seen this coming, this is just irresponsibility," resident Duane Douglas said. "They should have been incorporating repairs into the budget over the years."

When asked back in March why the courthouse was allowed to fall into such an obvious state of disrepair, Massac County State's Attorney Patrick Windstorm pointed out two failed bond measures in recent years struck down in elections, and said the question would be better answered by a county commissioner.

"It was in a horrible state when I came in three years ago, and in my opinion the can just kept getting kicked down the road," County Chairman Jeff Weber said in March when the courts vacated the premises. "A lot of minor problems have now turned out to be major, because they weren't taken care of when they probably should have been... because funds were appropriated to places besides the building's maintenance."

"If this is voted down, we'll have to pay for renovations some other way," Massac County Commissioner Jayson Farmer said. "Instead of doing it all at once, we'll first use our current revenues to get all of our workers back into the courthouse, then slowly start to do the rest of the work in phases."

By using current revenues, the county will ask various departments to make cuts at levels which will likely end in loss of employment for some county workers, according to Farmer.

If the hike is approved, the sales in Massac County would still be the third lowest when compared to Jackson, Union, White, Franklin, Hardin, Johnson, Williamson, Pope, Pulaski and Saline Counties.

The tax excludes automotive and mobile home sales, groceries, over the counter medication and farming equipment.

The tax is expected to generate around $840,000 per year and would be eliminated once the loan to pay for the courthouse is paid off.

That's expected to take between 10 and 15 years.

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