The chairman of the Lee County Board announced Wednesday that a potential re-use for the South Lee County Courthouse in Keokuk has emerged. It would only be needed, though, if voters approve a nearly $9 million bond referendum for a new courthouse on Nov. 8.
Ron Fedler said he received a letter this week from David Barrett of Keokuk. Barrett is a local pastor and a former city engineer and school board member.
Fedler read the letter aloud during Wednesday’s board meeting.
In it, Barrett wrote that he is interested in purchasing the three-story brick courthouse in downtown Keokuk if the bond referendum is approved. It would be re-developed for residential and/or commercial use, similar to the apartments in the former Fort Madison Middle School or the condos and office space in the former Eagles building in Keokuk.
Fedler said this would be great news for the entire county if Barrett's offer became a reality because it would prevent the property from potentially being demolished should the bond referendum pass.
It was pointed out during the meeting that if the building was sold, the county board would seek bids on the property as opposed to selecting the buyer.
The two board members who represent Keokuk, Gary Folluo & Matt Pflug, both expressed skepticism about the timing of the letter, which arrived just three weeks before Election Day.
Fedler told them that he did not seek out the offer from Barrett, adding that he hopes people respect Barrett's decision to come forward.
Mary Van Pelt, a former Montrose alderwoman, confirmed Fedler's account. She said that Barrett approached her about how to make the offer, adding that she agreed to hand-deliver the letter to Fedler so he would have it prior to this week's county board meeting.
Fedler said he hopes this answers a key question for people who are undecided about whether to support the construction of a new Lee County Courthouse. The bond referendum will require 60% approval to pass.
It follows the board's decision to approve a resolution naming the site of the new courthouse to address concerns that the building would not be construction near the jail, but rather in Fort Madison.
Fedler also mentioned Wednesday that the North Lee County Historical Society is interested in the courthouse in Fort Madison.
President Andy Andrews told Tri States Public Radio following the meeting that his group received a presentation about the historic courthouse. But he said his group has not taken a stance on it or what to do if the bond referendum is approved.