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Lee County Completes Improvements to Keokuk Courthouse; Turns Attention to Fort Madison Courthouse

Work is complete on the Keokuk Courthouse (L) so the focus is shifting to the exterior of the Fort Madison Courthouse (R).

Lee County is looking to renovate the exterior of the county courthouse in Fort Madison now that work has concluded on the exterior of the county courthouse in Keokuk.  Lee is the only county in Iowa with two courthouses.

County leaders considered replacing the two aging structures, but voters in November 2016 rejected a proposal to borrow more than $8 million to build a new courthouse near the county jail. It needed 60% approval; it received only about 30%.

In light of the overwhelming result, the county board agreed to invest in the current courthouses, starting with the South Lee County Courthouse in Keokuk.

Crews were hired to tuck-point the brick exterior, stabilize the clock-tower, and repair/replace portions of the roof.  The county’s construction consultant says they have completed their on-site work.

Supervisor Gary Folluo, who presents Keokuk on the county board, said he’s pleased with the results so far and with what is to come for the historic courthouses.

“I just look forward to getting the buildings up to where they should be and we, as a board, cannot let our buildings fall into disarray again,” said Folluo.

The work at the South Lee County Courthouse ended up costing much more than planned.  The county anticipated spending less than $600,000. But the County Auditor’s Office said the total will be closer to $750,000 once all bills are paid.

The county will pay for the work from its building maintenance fund. The Auditor’s Office said once the unpaid bills are closed out, the fund will have about $250,000 remaining. And Lee County receives about $300,000 annually from sales tax revenue for building improvements.

The county board has asked the county’s maintenance department and its construction consultant to come up with a list of exterior improvements for the North Lee County Courthouse in Fort Madison and the potential cost. The board said it will determine how to proceed once it finds out what it can afford.

The board said that once the exterior work is complete at both courthouses, interior work can begin. That is expected to include updating the HVAC units and the electrical systems.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.