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updated: 9/11/2012 4:57 PM

Kane County court expansion, renovation projects put on hold

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The Kane County Board has delayed addressing matters relating to the possible expansion of the judicial center, a proposal to convert two courtrooms into one and install a new elevator at the courthouse in Geneva.

It did so Tuesday at the request of Chief Judge Robert Spence and county board member Mark Davoust, chairman of the judicial and public safety committee.

The board was supposed to vote on authorizing turning two third-floor courtrooms into a single large room. Judge Judith Brawka, who presides over the civil division, has said the division needs a large courtroom when it has cases with multiple plaintiffs and defendants, who sometimes each have their own lawyers. A five-week malpractice trial last October had six defendants, and had to be moved to the judicial center for space purposes.

Davoust said his committee and the judge will ask the winning bidder if there are ways to cut costs from the $850,000 proposal. "I'm hopeful we can do better," Spence said.

County board member Jim Mitchell, who questions the need for the renovation, suggested that the administration committee also study whether there are alternatives for large trials. He previously suggested moving large trials to one of the circuit court's bigger courtrooms in another building, such as a traffic courtroom.

County board member Drew Frasz noted that the cost to replace the elevator has dropped $43,000, to $806,941. The county's facilities director believes it would be most efficient to do the elevator and the courtroom renovation at the same time since they are next to each other. County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay said the county may be able to get an even better price on the elevator if it does so, because the current proposed elevator contract calls for work to be done during off-hours at time-and-a-half labor rates to minimize disruption to business in the adjacent courtrooms.

The board also put off hiring an architect to design an expansion of the judicial center. The building task force had asked Wight and Co., the building's original architects, to design the expansion; Wight proposed charging $313,450. The judicial and public safety committee and Spence think soliciting more proposals might net a lower price.

The matters will return to the county board in October.

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