Courthouse is under investigation
by Michele Longworth
Mar 26, 2014 | 1313 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While Massac County’s commissioners dealt with the usual county business Tuesday morning, an official from Illinois Department of Labor’s (IDOL) Safety Inspection and Education Division launched an investigation of the county’s courthouse following an anonymous complaint.

The description of the complaint reads: “The courthouse is deteriorating due to lack of maintenance. The large courtroom on the upper level has been closed due to the ceiling caving in. There are leaks and plaster debris in adjacent areas. The roof is not safe and staff are afraid it will collapse. There are unusual odors and potential mold present from the continued water intrusion.”

The complainant indicates the safety violations are in multiple offices, vaults, hallways, restrooms, courtooms, judges’ chambers and roof.

The board recessed for a brief lunch following over an hour of closed session contract negotiations with union employees in the treasurer’s and state’s attorney’s office. The board reconvened at 1:15 p.m. expecting to talk to Donald Swiatkowski, IDOL safety inspector. However, State’s Attorney Patrick Windhorst explained Swiatkowski would not talk to the board in an open meeting with a member of the media present.

After talking to Swiatkowski, Windhorst explained to the board he hoped to finish the investigation Tuesday afternoon. Swiatkowski spent much of the morning inspecting the building from top to bottom, writing down infractions and taking photos.

Windhorst said Swiatkowski intended to conduct interviews with staff members Tuesday afternoon and finish the investigation, but if he does not, it would continue into Wednesday morning.

According to Illinois state law, Swiatkowski told Windhorst the person making the initial complaint would remain anonymous. As of press time, it had not been determined if Ted Sheriff Holder would present the findings of the investigation to the board immediately following the investigation or to the board at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Also at the board meeting was Metropolis Mayor Billy McDaniel, Metropolis City Attorney Rick Abell and Metropolis’ Enterprise Zone Administrator Chad Murray, who came to inform the commissioners the county-wide enterprise zone would expire in 2018.

As Abell explained, the state has changed the process of reapplying to remain an enterprise zone. Abell said the process will be competitive and will encompass employment statistics as well as the need for having the zone.

According to Abell, Murray and McDaniel, they need to know from the county, if the county still wishes to participate in the enterprise zone and if the county feels the city should pursue re-applying. Ultimately, the city officials indicated having the county working together would help the application process.

Abell explained numerous businesses have and continue to utilize the enterprise zone, such as LaFarge, Electric Energy, Inc., Honeywell and Cook Coal Terminal, as well as Fat Edd’s and most recently Big John.

Murray said there will be about 42 enterprise zones set to expire in 2016. He, Abell and McDaniel said they want Massac County and Metropolis to get a jump start and apply early. Abell told the commissioners that Massac County, the City of Metropolis and Joppa are currently the three entities involved in the Enterprise Zone, which affords businesses, both large and small a chance to receive some tax breaks in order to encourage business growth.

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