The Cole County Commission is moving forward with the demolition of the old county jail and sheriff’s quarters.
The county has been looking to do this for the past four years, but has faced opposition from the local historical society.
The old jail was built in the 1930s and those opposed to its demolition say it would be a crime to tear it down.
The commission argues the space is needed for a large new courtroom, and tearing it down is the best thing for the county.
The commission heard several appeals from the public asking the building be left in place. Many asked that it be remolded, not torn down.
“There’s other uses we could use this building for if it doesn’t fit the needs for the courts at this time,” said Terri Rademon.
Those opposed to the demolition’s favorite option was that it be made into a museum, but they said they would also settle for it being made into courtrooms.
“If you have the will to save these buildings, you could re-purpose them and you could find a way to do that,” said Steve Veile, of the Historic City of Jefferson.
The commissioners said they did look into that option, but said the current building does not allow for a large enough courtroom to be built.
They say the county needs the large courtroom to be built as soon as possible.
“It will allow us to have a full-sized courtroom, which we really don’t currently have. It will alleviate jury trial issues, it will alleviate criminal law days, civil law days, and will allow growth and expansion into the future,” said Cole County Presiding Commissioner, Marc Ellinger.
The cost of the tear-down is slightly more than the remodel plan. Demolishing the building and then building a new one will cost between $2 and $2.3 million, while the remodel would cost between $1.8 and $2.1 million.
However, commissioners say the tear-down plan will save them money eventually.
“The best use for the tax money is going to be to knock it down. It will have a more flexible floor plan, and it’s actually gonna cost less in the long run,” said Eastern District Commissioner, Jeff Hoelscher.
Some of those who spoke just asked for a decision to be delayed, but the commissioners said that should not be an option.
“Doing nothing is allowing these buildings to deteriorate and fall down, and we can’t do nothing,” said Western District Commissioner Kris Scheperle.
In the end, the decision was made to move forward with plans to demolish the buildings.
The vote allowed the commission to have it’s architect draft plans for the new building that will replace the current one.
Commissioners say it could be late summer before ground is broken.