ONARGA — The University of Illinois Extension is searching for another building to rent for its office serving Ford and Iroquois counties, because the office it has leased for 20 years in Onarga will soon be the site of a medical clinic.
The building owner provided notification "about a month ago" that he would not be renewing the Extension's lease, said Ginger Boas, director of the Extension unit serving Ford, Iroquois, Champaign and Vermilion counties.
The Extension has until June 30 — the date the lease expires — to find another site, preferably in Onarga or Gilman, two towns centrally located in Ford and Iroquois counties, Boas said.
"The bottom line is we're not closing; we're definitely still planning to have a presence and an office in Ford and Iroquois counties," Boas stressed.
The Extension office will become the new home of Gibson Area Hospital & Health Services' Onarga Clinic. The Gibson City-based hospital intends to relocate its Onarga clinic there following the Extension's exit.
The hospital's chief executive officer, Rob Schmitt, said the hospital is in the process of finalizing a lease agreement with the owner of the building, Carl Bork of Onarga. Schmitt said the lease would be for five years.
Schmitt said the hospital needs more space for its clinic in Onarga, and the 3,000-square-foot building housing the Extension office meets that need.
"We are anticipating adding a full-time family practice physician for that clinic after we move," Schmitt said, noting that the current clinic is too small. "That area (around Onarga) needs a full-time doctor."
The downtown building that currently houses the clinic will continue to be leased by the hospital after the move occurs, Schmitt said.
"We're working on a new (three-year) lease for that," Schmitt said.
Schmitt said the building will be used for community education and outreach programs, such as diabetes education classes, healthy-cooking classes and fitness classes.
"We're going to talk about almost anything that can improve the health and welfare of the community," Schmitt said about the programs.
Schmitt added that the hospital in December bought a building in Paxton that formerly housed a Provena clinic, and it plans to also use that building for community education classes.