New Franklin County tax to pay for new courthouse

Tax funds new courthouse in Franklin Co.

BENTON, IL (KFVS) - The Franklin County Courthouse has been standing in the Benton town square for a very long time. More than 144 years to be exact.

Since it’s so old, there’s a lot of wear and tear that needs to be addressed. However, in this weeks elections, voters approved of a one percent local sales tax to construct a brand new one.

As the Franklin County Circuit Clerk, Jim Muir spends a lot of time at the courthouse. He showed Heartland News reporters around the building to show them what kind of shape the building is currently in.

“The foundation of it is just crumbling,” he said.

Muir said he’s well aware not all residents approve of the new tax. However, he brought up that a lot of tax dollars are already being spent to keep the current courthouse running.

“$13,000 a year just in partial labor to keep this old boiler system going,” he said.

On top of costing a lot of money to repair, Muir said the boiler system doesn’t function very well in the winter. He said it makes some rooms much too warm and keeps others too cold.

Additionally, the old building has some serious safety hazards, like not having a wheelchair accessible elevator which also couldn’t fit a stretcher on it in case of emergency.

He also pointed out that there’s only one way in and out of the building that everyone has to use. Something that can be uncomfortable to people taking care of court business but also has potential to be dangerous.

“It’s a situation where you have families of the victims of crimes that are walking into the same door and hallway as the person that’s been accused," he said. “We’ve had murder victim’s family’s walk in to the same door as the alleged murderer. It’s just a terrible situation.”

Muir said the new courthouse will have a garage for inmates to be driven into that leads inside. He said this better separates them from the public and lowers the chance of inmates trying to escape while going to court.

And just because the new local sales tax passed, doesn’t mean residents will be paying it forever.

“There’s a sunset clause there that says once this is paid for, that one cent sales tax will be gone,” Muir said.

Right now, it’s estimated that the new courthouse will be built in about two years and Franklin County residents will finish paying for it in about a decade.

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