Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton County Courthouse's Demise Ends Debate, Era Two Citizens Groups Had Urged Renovation of 1849 Building, but Safety, Space Were Concerns

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton County Courthouse's Demise Ends Debate, Era Two Citizens Groups Had Urged Renovation of 1849 Building, but Safety, Space Were Concerns

Article excerpt

When the 148-year-old Clinton County Courthouse is demolished Tuesday to make way for a $3.8 million structure in its place on the square, it will mean the end to a bitter debate.

The Clinton County Board initiated plans eight years ago to either ren ovate the 1849 building or construct a modern building, and immediately clashed with citizens' groups.

Both the Clinton County Historical Society and Clinton County Taxpayers Association opposed the new building. But backers cited safety, space and security problems with the old building. After several controversial proposals failed to gain a consensus, a Public Building Commission was appointed. Its recommendation, from Kuhlmann Design Group in St. Louis and Phillips Swager Associates of Peoria, was approved in January. After the courthouse is leveled, construction will begin on a new three-story building. It is expected to take 18 months to two years to complete. The new building's west side will have a separate elevator and a secured holding area for defendants coming from the county jail. Keeping prisoners away from the public was a concern, said state's attorney Henry Bergmann. "The downstairs room we used for daily court posed some security problems," he said. "And it was really too small for the volume of cases that we had. The upstairs courtroom was functional, but there were different issues. Jurors weren't secured from the general public. Everybody had to use the same restrooms - jurors, the judge, the defendant. That was a problem." `A No-Win Situation' County Board member Jack Lampen of Breese is glad the bickering is over. "It's been a fiasco," he said. "It was a no-win situation. We had to do this. As far as I'm concerned, the Taxpayers Association did nothing but cost the taxpayers more money. Nobody had a better idea. We lost about five good board members because of all the fighting. They just said `I don't need this.' " Lampen credited a former board chairman, the late Wilfrid Hilmes, for moving the project forward in a unique way. He was determined to get results, so he started a rumor that the courthouse would be built in Breese, Lampen said. …

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