We’ve heard of businesses jumping from Oak Park to Forest Park but government offices?
Cook County is considering pulling its public health department out of Oak Park to save more than $600,000 it pays each year in rent. But local and county officials are fighting the move and the $5.1 million price tag it would cost to relocate the offices to Oak Forest.
Another idea being floated is moving the Cook County Department of Public Health from its current spot at 1010 Lake to the former tuberculosis clinic at the southwest corner of Jackson and Desplaines in Forest Park. The county owns 7556 Jackson, but a spokeswoman was unsure how much it would cost to move there.
Oak Park has housed the health department since 1992, when it vacated the Maybrook courthouse in Maywood. The office is not a health clinic but provides services such as public relations, educational programs, and eye testing for school districts. The county pays about $602,000 each year to rent the 26,000-square foot office.
Oak Park officials are fighting the relocation to southwest Oak Forest, arguing that the offices would be on the outskirts of the county rather than a centralized location. The village board passed a resolution last week urging the county not to make the move.
“A centrally-located facility is likely to help keep operating costs lower, much less the savings from not having to invest a large amount of taxpayer dollars in building out an unnecessary facility,” Village President David Pope said last week.
Property owner Terry McCullom says the offices are in good shape, and it would be difficult to find a replacement tenant “even in a good economy.”
County Board Commissioner Peter Silvestri said the county should try to renegotiate its lease, which expires in 2011, or find a location that’s in central Cook County. He expects the board to take a vote on the move by the end of this month.
“Times are tough, and if the goal is to save money, and if there’s opportunity to renegotiate, renegotiate,” he said.
In a letter to the board of commissioners Feb. 3, Chief Operating Officer Stephen Martin argued for the move. He estimated that moving to a county-owned property would save $6.6 million in rent over the next 15 years.
Silvestri also mentioned selling off the Forest Park property as a way to raise cash and consolidate properties. The county has also mulled moving its Forest Park offices into Oak Forest.
“It’s a good idea to get rid of real estate that we don’t need,” Silvestri said.
According to Amy Poore, a spokeswoman for the health department, the county offers some clinical services at the Forest Park property. She could not provide its square footage or how much it might cost to relocate offices there.
“We’re still exploring the option to just be certain that our staff can fit there, and we have enough space,” she said of a possible move to Forest Park.