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Nonprofit group to save old Ford Co. jail

(MCT) PAXTON — A nonprofit group in Paxton will begin working on the 142-year-old former jail and sheriff’s residence, saving a building that was targeted for demolition by the Ford County Board.

Royce Baier, president of the Paxton Foundation, has presented a check to the Ford County Board for $10, to finalize the deal.

“We still have to get all of the legal work done for the official transfer of the property, but we are very psyched about this,” Baier said.

The buildings have been vacant since 1993 and because of insurance and maintenance on the property, the county board considered tearing it down before the Paxton Foundation stepped forward.

“We wish them the best with finding the funds and the energy to make it beautiful once again,” said Ford County Board Chairman Rick Bowen.

The building was named to Landmarks Illinois’ Ten Most Endangered List in 2011 and was once the oldest operating jail in Illinois. It was used until 1993, when a new jail opened a few blocks to the north. It has been vacant ever since.

Baier said the foundation has no immediate plans for the building.

“The first thing we want to do is work a little bit on the exterior and do a little bit of painting and some cleaning up,” he said. “For a building that has been vacant as long as it has, though, it is in great shape. We will have to work on getting central air conditioning in there, but the one thing that all of us are impressed with, is how great the condition of it still is.”

Baier said members of the foundation are considering having an open house and possibly an arts and crafts fair this summer.

“We would really like the public to take a look at it and discuss our plans and maybe pick up some ideas, as well,” he said, adding the foundation already has started an informal fundraising effort, but more definite plans will be decided later.

“We are accepting donations right now and every little bit helps, whether it’s a few bucks or whatever people wish to give,” he said. “We have also really been encouraged by the number of people who want to volunteer once we start really working on it. Almost every day when I walk down the street, I am approached by someone who wants to help. The residents of Paxton and even people from other communities are very excited about this and are anxious to see what happens with it.”

The foundation also plans on using the building for office space, Baier said.


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