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posted: 6/23/2012 7:55 AM

County officials consider options for judicial center overflow

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A $100 million price tag is what ended the last Kane County Board debate about expanding an increasingly cramped judicial center, but the growing pains haven't subsided.

County officials are ready to discuss less costly options for a sizable construction plan that would be one of the first major votes new county board members will take after the November election.

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A county board task force on Friday agreed to secure price tags for several options.

The first involves adding two wings to the judicial center as originally envisioned, which is estimated to cost about $100 million.

The second idea involves moving the court services staff to the circuit court clerk offices on Randall Road in St. Charles making the old offices at the judicial center courtrooms.

The third option is increasing use of the old Third Street Courthouse in Geneva. That also may prove to be a costly option -- building a parking structure would likely be needed.

The fourth option involves adding a second courtroom to the Juvenile Justice Center building; however, more space for juvenile cases isn't the county's main problem. A mix of court cases in that facility may not be desirable, officials said.

Finally, the latest idea, and the one most officials seem to favor, is adding more courtrooms to the circuit court clerk's building. The county recently moved traffic court to the facility. This plan likely would move divorce and child support cases. An early estimate for this option is about $5 million.

County officials must still agree on where to find the money for any sort of judicial construction project. An initial plan would see the money coming from the county's public safety sales tax, but that plan might create a tug-of-war for funding with the circuit court clerk's office.

The recent court settlement between the county board and Circuit Court Clerk Deb Seyller forced Seyller to spend down her special revenue funds to meet payroll. Now those special funds are beginning to run low, and some board members see the public safety sales tax as a way to beef up the circuit court clerk's budget. Doing that might not leave enough cash for the construction project.

There's an additional idea that will also see some discussion: Several county board members would like to make better round-the-clock use of the existing judicial center by creating a night court. But judicial employees, including Chief Judge Robert Spence, have repeatedly rebuffed that idea as a logistical nightmare.

The task force will weigh all those options once getting some cost estimates for each idea.

Options: Judicial employees say night court would be a 'logistical nightmare'

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