Will County exhausts bond funding with $5.5 million over-run on construction projects

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will county courthouse
Rendering of the new Will County Courthouse (HOK)

Will County construction projects are running more than $5.5 million over budget causing some county board members to ask how this has happened and to seek assurances that they won’t be in the dark about future construction costs, The Chicago Tribune reports.

While the largest project — a courthouse in Joliet budgeted at $215 million — came in below budget at $207.5 million, several invoices are outstanding from an original $276 bond issue “and the county will have to pay for the remainder of the project, about $5.5 million, from its general fund”, the newspaper reported.

The bonds were issued to build the new public safety complex, a health department building, animal control facility, Emergency Management Agency facility, as well as the Will County Courthouse.

The courthouse (which opened in October) was the last of the projects, and by then the bond money had been exhausted.

Will County chief of staff Mike Schaben said the county’s executive jennifer Bertino-Tarrant’s office is preparing a report to address which of the projects cost more than originally anticipated.

The complete assessment is likely to come over the next few weeks and include what the initial projections were on each project and how the scope of the project changed, Schaben was reported as saying.

The $5.5 million shortfall from the original bond issuance is likely due to several small change orders due to unforeseen issues, he said.

Board member Jim Moustis said the board would have to use money from the general fund to pay the excess amount. He said that this could affect other capital projects.

Board member Steve Balich said he wouldn’t want to approve any new projects until the board understands what was spent during the recent construction.

“It’s extremely uncomfortable when money gets spent and I don’t know where it was spent,” Balich said.

Schaben said the board issued the $276 million in bonds to fund several capital improvement projects at once, as opposed to issuing bonds for each individual project, because financially it made sense. The county received a better rate on a large bond than it would for several smaller bonds, he said.

Schaben said the county is in good financial shape, and he anticipates the shortfall would have a “negligible affect” on the county’s finances.

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