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PAXTON — The Ford County Board’s overview committee has called a meeting for Thursday to discuss a proposal by a Paxton nonprofit group to buy the historic former jail and sheriff’s residence on the courthouse square.
The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the small courtroom at the Ford County Courthouse in Paxton.
Committee Chairman Floyd “Bud” Otto Jr. of rural Roberts has invited all county board members to attend.
Otto said the committee will probably go into executive session to discuss the proposal. The Illinois Open Meetings Act allows for closed-session discussions in regard to “the setting of price for sale or lease of property owned by (a) public body.”
In January, the nonprofit Paxton Foundation offered to buy the 19th-century jail and sheriff’s residence and pay for the building’s renovation and upkeep. County board members asked the group to submit a formal written proposal by Feb. 1 for further consideration.
The foundation’s president, Royce Baier, said he did so. He declined to disclose the proposal’s details.
The county board in December had made plans to tear down the 1871 Italianate-style brick sheriff’s residence and attached stone jail — one of the few remaining jails in Illinois built from athens marble — if no viable use for the building could be found.
The board is particularly concerned about the continued deterioration of the county-owned building, which has not been used for 20 years.
The foundation is considering possible uses for the building that include a museum, office space for the foundation’s headquarters, or a bed-and-breakfast. Baier said the foundation would be committed to paying for all of the cost of renovating the complex, adding that the county would not be stuck paying for anything.
The building has remained empty and unused since 1993 — the last year the facility was in operation. At the time, it had been Illinois’ oldest-operating jail. It was replaced by a new jail that was built north of the complex.