Videos to show why half-cent sales tax is needed for Logan County Courthouse restoration

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[January 28, 2020] 

At the Logan County Board’s Regular meeting on Thursday, January 23, the board voted on whether to approve a video about the upcoming referendum that is to help finance the courthouse restoration. In an effort to encourage voter approval of the referendum, the board also voted to gather additional video footage.

At last week’s board workshop, the board previewed the video on the courthouse that explains the upcoming referendum.

Bill Walter of Masonry Restoration Technologies & Services has worked on many historic buildings and was asked to develop a restoration plan for the courthouse. In the video, Walter said he was originally brought over because of significant issues with the dome, water leaking and debris falling. Walter said the dome is the critical element of the building restoration.

On the March 17 ballot, there will be a public facilities tax referendum specifically for the courthouse project. Walter said he anticipates the cost of the total project will be somewhere between $8.5 and $8.7 million. The funding would take care of the needs the county has and provide a serviceable building for the next 20 to 25 years.

Walter said he has looked at the total use of the courthouse and how it can be increased and improved. He has presented the idea of using some of the spaces not being occupied for other county activities. Walter said using these spaces would help maximize the total efficiency of the courthouse.

The referendum question on the ballot proposes a 0.5 percent sales tax increase for the purpose of courthouse restoration. That is an added fifty cents for every $100 spent and would not increase sales tax on food and medicine. If passed, all revenue from the increase will be put towards repairing and restoring the county courthouse.

After viewing the video at the board workshop, board members had some comments on it.

Bob Sanders said he wants to see more of the courthouse disrepair and the damage [from failure of the structural components] in the video. If people do not see that, they might not understand the need for the referendum.

Dave Blankenship said he commended the videographer for making a professional video but agrees that the video needs to show a majority of the other serious issues. The dome is just one of the critical issues. He said the public should see the leaky windows, the boiler problems and the electrical issues just to name a few. Blankenship said seeing these problems should help the public better understand the reason for the referendum.

Since the tax increase has a sunset clause on it, Jim Wessbecher said it would also be good to mention that in a video.

The Executive and Personnel Committee decided time is of the essence, so they need to get the video out. Annette Welch said this video will at least get some information out.

Welch said the committee had decided to bring two motions forward. The first one was to release the video that had already been made. The second one was for a longer video with more of a historian view and more information on the problems.

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Cameron Halpin said he thought it would be good to go ahead and put out the first video and then make a second video. Changes to the first video would cost more.

Dave Hepler said the video creates a strong emotional response in favor of courthouse restoration. He said increased information might be offset by lack of time.

Scott Schaffenacker said he would vote to approve what was made because it is enough to present to the community in the short amount of time before election.

At the regular voting meeting, Schaffenacker brought forward two motions:

1. To approve the Courthouse Restoration video, as edited, shown at the Workshop on January 16, 2020.

2. To approve additional Courthouse Restoration video footage up to $400.

The board unanimously approved the first video.

Before voting on whether to approve the additional video footage, there was more discussion.

Sanders said he wants the video to show the damage caused by rain because the public should know about it. He also said the additional video should include Blankenship, since he is chair of the Building and Grounds Committee and helping spear head the restoration efforts.

Halpin said that is doable because Derrick Haynes [who does maintenance at the courthouse] has footage of the water.

Wessbecher asked about Walter being a bigger part of the video since he is overseeing the work and can explain what has been done and why it has been done. There was some discussion having judges in the video and Wessbecher was not sure they would add anything.

To address the concern about using the judges, Halpin said he had been talking with Judge Jonathan Wright and they would not be using the judges in the additional video. There will be more footage of Walter. They have also talked to Paul Gleason about providing some history.

As far as the courthouse history, Wessbecher said he had recently read that the structure is considered the second most architecturally significant courthouse in Illinois.

The additional footage was approved 10-1.

Schaffenacker abstained.

Last week, videographer Michael Proctor had said once he interviews and videos the people for the additional footage, it will take about a week to get the video edited. The board hopes to get the second video out soon.

Board members present were Dave Blankenship, Emily Davenport, Bob Farmer, Cameron Halpin, David Hepler, Steve Jenness, Chuck Ruben, Bob Sanders Scott Schaffenacker, Annette Welch and Jim Wessbecher. Janet Estill was absent.

[Angela Reiners]

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