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Elgin officials want IDES office to stay in city

ElgCity Councilman Terry Gavin

Elgin City Councilman Terry Gavin

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Updated: March 17, 2014 11:12AM

ELGIN — City Councilman Terry Gavin is urging residents to call their state legislators to make sure the Illinois Department of Employment Security keeps an office open in Elgin.

“They offer critically important services,” Gavin said.

Gavin said the matter of the local office possibly closing came up at a recent meeting of the Economic Development Group’s Workforce Development Group. The EDG is an arm of the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce commissioned by the city to address business issues.

IDES offices like the one in Elgin offer both employment and unemployment services. IDES spokesman Greg Rivara recently said the department would not be leaving Kane County but is looking to move out of either or both of its Kane County public offices — one in downtown Elgin at 30 DuPage Court, the other in Smoketree Plaza in North Aurora — possibly sometime in 2014.

Those are the two places in the county where IDES serves customers. It has a third location in Aurora that is strictly administrative.

According to Rivara, the tenant that shares space with IDES in Elgin is leaving that building. At at the same time, the lease for the North Aurora location is expiring. No timeline has been set, and IDES might also consider consolidating its Kane public offices.

IDES is federally funded with its budget driven by the number of claimants, not the unemployment rate, Rivara said. Unemployment in Kane County stood at 8.6 percent in December (the most recent available figures) and at 10.7 percent in Elgin.

Gavin noted that the Elgin office serves a very large area. He personally knows people who have to come down from McHenry County to use its services. His wife was unemployed for three months and went to the Elgin office for assistance, too.

Employment services are where clients register to look for work. The case workers match a worker’s skills with jobs that might be available, or employers looking for specific kinds of skills. Unemployment services are for people who file for unemployment benefits.

According to Rivara, currently about 90 percent of unemployment claims nowadays are handled online or on the telephone.

Making people travel farther to get personal help when they already have had to deal with a loss of income has Gavin concerned. Gavin also noted he was wary of IDES closing, consolidating or changing what its offices may offer when the unemployment rate remains high.

To that end, Mayor Dave Kaptain said the city recently contacted Gov. Pat Quinn’s office about working to find another, bigger space for IDES in Elgin. One he suggested was looking into the possibility of occupying a large office building on North McLean Boulevard.

State Sen. Mike Noland (D-Elgin) said that possible consolidation reflects effectiencies and cost savings. As such, as IDES will be taking bids for a new location, Noland said the best way for concerned Elgin residents to keep an office in the city is to have Realtor friends who might know of available office space contact the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which is overseeing that process, to see how much space and the specifications of what IDES wants in another building.

“I think Elgin can be competitive,” Noland said.

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