Massac Co., IL courthouse needing millions of dollars in repairs

MASSAC COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Every time it rains in Massac County, Illinois, the upper stories of the county's courthouse get damp with rainwater.

After last year's election, the county has tried to impose a sales tax three times to pay for repairs, but the referendum was shot down each time.

In at least two recent county board meetings, a Metropolis man named Craig Lundin discussed a proposal that would utilize some tax dollars, but include county inmate labor and public donations to fix things.

"He guaranteed it wouldn't leak for ten years, for 125,000," said Massac County Board of Commissioner Chairman Jerel Childers on Tuesday.

Childers said the idea offers a remedy to the county's most immediate problem, which is stopping leaks and preventing further damage.

The idea does not offer a solution to the county's larger struggle, which is to find a way to pay for the full renovation valued at as much as $5.3 million.

"The county is in terrible financial shape," Childers said. "And we're just going to have to get the money together through different things. Cut expenses… and try to raise our income through different things that we do... fines and things like that."

"If this is voted down, we'll have to pay for renovations some other way," Massac County Commissioner Jayson Farmer said in 2016, before the sales tax was voted down. "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."

According to Farmer, 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.

The county has yet to move forward with layoffs that would blanket Massac County government, and this measure may prolong some county worker jobs.

But the measure would only fix leaks, and would not address the building's many other problems such as asbestos, an outdated heating system, mold, broken windows and crumbling interior walls.

"Our forefathers left that for us, and we're not very good stewards of it… letting it leak like that," said local house flipper Gary Jones on Tuesday. "If they don't stop that rain from coming in, the problem's getting worse by the day."

In late 2015, parts of the courthouse were condemned due to those issues, and county workers were moved off site to a temporary location.

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