DuPage County planning to close field court in Downers Grove

DuPage County is expected to close its field court in Downers Grove and move the cases to its main courthouse in Wheaton by year's end.

The county board recently agreed to transfer roughly $555,000 in reserve funds to allow for construction of a new traffic courtroom at the Wheaton courthouse. On Tuesday, county board member Jim Healy said the plan is to close the Downers Grove field court - located in an American Legion post - in the next six to eight months.

"We believe it will be done by the end of this year," said Healy, a Naperville Republican. "The chief judge does not want us to stay in Downers Grove. He wants us out."

Healy said the Downers Grove location is no longer viable because of security concerns. There's a clause in the lease that would allow the county to move out early.

"The most safe and secure location is back at the Wheaton courthouse," he said.

Municipalities in southeast DuPage hoped to persuade the county to move the field court to a new police station planned for Woodridge on Janes Avenue north of 75th Street.

Woodridge and the county spent months talking about the possibility of adding a multipurpose space that would serve as a field court and a community room when court isn't in session. But DuPage would have needed to contribute $662,500 to pay for construction of the multipurpose space. It also would have needed to sign a 20-year lease.

Healy said moving cases to the courthouse in Wheaton is significantly cheaper. He said officials already are exploring ways to reduce the estimated $555,237 cost of the new courtroom.

Before county board members voted last week to transfer money for the project, mayors and village presidents from southeast DuPage said shifting cases to Wheaton will significantly increase costs for their towns because police officers, code enforcement officers and attorneys will spend more time traveling.

On Tuesday, a county board member who supported the Woodridge proposal said he's disappointed DuPage will lose one of its field courts.

"It's going to put a huge strain on our residents who live in the southeast part of our county," county board member Pete DiCianni said. "You're going to have people trek from one side of the county to the other over minor tickets."

The Elmhurst Republican said it's "unfortunate" the county couldn't reach a deal with the municipalities.

"The mayors were coming up with a cost share to help the county out," DiCianni said. "We were pretty much on the goal line of getting this done, and we walked away from a very good deal that the mayors offered us. We didn't even give them the chance to come back with a final and best offer."

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