A straw poll of Yorkville City Council members taken during the council’s meeting Tuesday evening, June 12, shows that the majority of aldermen want the dilapidated former county jail to be completely demolished.
The city purchased the jail with $160,000 in state grant funds in 2010 but no maintenance or improvements have been performed on the building since.
A report by Pete Ratos, the city’s chief code official, in April showed that the building was in disrepair and could pose a public safety hazard if it wasn’t demolished or if necessary repairs weren’t immediately made.
Ratos estimated that full demolition would cost between $40,000 and $80,000.
Ratos wrote in his report that if the city wants to save just the older portion of the jail that dates to the 1890s, officials would need to perform $130,000 to $180,000 of work, including replacing the jail’s roof, windows and doors; tuck pointing the exterior masonry; and removing the mold.
The building, constructed in 1893, served as the county’s jail until the current jail was completed in 1992. Since the Sheriff’s Office moved out, the county used the building occasionally for office space but mostly for storage.
City officials bought the building in 2010 with the hope that a local developer would perhaps buy the building and renovate it for a museum or private business. However, those plans never came to fruition.
During Tuesday evening’s meeting, the City Council discussed the future of the building.
City Administrator Bart Olson has prepared a request for proposal (RFP) for firms to bid on demolishing the building. Olson told the council he had also prepared a request for information (RFI) to determine if a private individual wanted to buy the property and renovate the building.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Olson said he would get bids for full demolition.
Alderman Jackie Milschewski, whose son Thomas is advocating to save the building, said she didn’t see the harm in gauging the interest of developers in saving and restoring it.
“What if somebody still wants the building?” she said.
However, most aldermen agreed that the building needs to be demolished sooner rather than later.
“For me, the cheapest option we have, by and large, is a full demolition,” said Alderman Joel Frieders.
“Tear the whole thing down now and be done with it,” Alderman Seaver Tarulis said.
Alderman Carlo Colosimo said it would be “hypocritical” of the city to not demolish the building because of safety issues, citing the city’s own building safety standards.
Colosimo also said he was not willing to commit more taxpayer dollars to fixing the jail following a partial demolition.
“I’m not throwing another $150,000 into that building,” Colosimo said.
Mayor Gary Golinski expressed doubts that a developer would come forward to buy the building and renovate it.
“If there were any developers interested in it, they would be here tonight,” he said.
At the end of Tuesday’s evening’s meeting, two city residents spoke about the old jail.
Johanna Byram said she had attempted to work with the county when they owned it to place the building on the National Register of Historic Places, but that officials rejected her help.
Byram said she would love to save the old jail, but that if the city is considering demolishing it they should look into a professional salvage company that could save some parts that could be sold.
She said for example that other counties in the U.S. that have similar jails built by the same company could be interested. She said parts of the jail could be valuable, including the bricks.
“Don’t just tear it down - there’s a lot of parts that people would be interested in that you could sell and make money on,” she said.
Lisa Wolancevich said a nonprofit has been formed to preserve the old jail. She said the group is planning fundraisers to “help the city save the jail.”
“We would have opportunities,” she said.