Ill. county considering alternative grant for demolishing old jail

The county is considering applying for a state shovel-ready project grant that would cover demolition and a concrete retaining wall for about $1 million or $1.25 million, with a 25% local commitment


By Rachel Rodgers
Daily Gazette, Sterling, Ill.

DIXON, Ill. — Lee County is considering pursuing a different grant to demolish the old jail, one that would require a local match of around $250,000.

In June, the county submitted its application for a $5 million state grant to demolish the old jail and construct a new building, but the program is on hold after receiving an influx of applications.

"It's not looking too promising," County Board member Dave Bowers said during the finance committee meeting Thursday.

The county now is considering applying for a state shovel-ready project grant that would cover demolition and a concrete retaining wall for about $1 million or $1.25 million, with a 25% local commitment.

Board member Tom Kitson said they should gauge the board to see if there's interest in refurbishing the 50-year-old facility rather than demolishing it.

"This building leaks like a sieve, and it needs replacement," Bowers responded.

Demolishing the old Lee County jail at 122 W. Third St. has been on the county's radar for the last few years, and plans were delayed to focus on building the new Lee County Law Enforcement Center at 240 E. Progress Drive. The old building has several issues and failed to meet state jail standards for many years.

Lee County Sheriff John Simonton said they did a study in the past about remodeling the jail, and it's not cost effective.

There's also a structural issue with one of the walls, and the building is slowing sinking.

"The infrastructure is not good," Simonton said.

The $5 million grant application included building an emergency operations center as well as secure parking, a sally port and holding cells for inmates awaiting court appearances.

The new plan for an emergency operations center and office for the Lee County Emergency Management Agency is to expand and outfit an area in the third floor of the Lee County Courts Building for around $223,000, which likely would be funded with coronavirus aid funds.

Both projects will go to the board Thursday for discussion.

©2020 the Daily Gazette (Sterling, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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