Listen to this article

Got a question for Tom?

CHAMPAIGN — The saga of the "sick" secretary of state's building seems to be wrapping up, but the ending may not be nice.

After two years of complaints about conditions at the undersized Driver Services Facility on Bradley Avenue, the Secretary of State's Office is planning a move.

And JSM Development is listing the 20-year-old building, across Bradley from Parkland College, as available for lease beginning in December.

Leasing agent Jill Guth of JSM wasn't available for comment Wednesday, but the property is listed on the JSM commercial properties website. And the Secretary of State's Office says it is preparing to leave the building, even though more than six years remain on the lease.

"They have let us know that the building is available for lease," said Henry Haupt, spokesman for Secretary of State Jesse White.

But JSM "has not supplied us with a notice to leave. I don't want to speak for them, but it's one thing to look for a prospective candidate to lease their building, but as of now, they haven't asked us to prepare to vacate."

A 90-day notice is required under the lease, Haupt said.

"We have had a good relationship with the landlord through the entire time we've been there," he said. "I don't want to speculate, but we haven't received any notice from them as to when they want us out."

This year, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the secretary of state's office is paying $103,100 to CMH Properties LLC (owned by Christopher Hartman) for use of the property.

Hundreds of pages of emails, reports, correspondence and copies of articles about "Sick Building Syndrome" obtained under the FOIA request make it clear that employees of the facility in west Champaign had lodged numerous complaints about conditions inside the facility.

The documents detailed only one customer complaint about the building; it was made on Sept. 5. Karen Nelson, the acting administrator of the facility, wrote that a customer complained "about his eyes burning while he was waiting for his number. They were very red. He said he does not have allergies."

In the same email, Nelson wrote that eight employees, including herself, were suffering from ailments ranging from headaches and sore throats to burning eyes and a metallic taste.

It wasn't the first time employees complained about the building. Last November, the Champaign Fire Department was called to the building after there were complaints of headaches and stomach problems. Neither the fire department nor Ameren found any problem, according to the emails.

The only constant in various inspections of the property by the Illinois Department of Labor and Hillside-based Professional Service Industries Inc. was that carbon-dioxide levels were sometimes unusually high.

In a December 2012 inspection, labor department inspector David Martin found carbon-dioxide levels of around 2,800 parts per million, when the recommended level was 600 to 1,000 ppm. Again in September 2013, Martin found carbon-dioxide levels as high as 2,900 parts per million.

"High levels are an indicator of poor ventilation system performance. Though these levels are not lethal, they may in some individuals cause a general feeling of malaise or respiratory discomfort," Martin wrote.

PSI also found high carbon-dioxide levels inside the building in August 2013. But when it conducted tests twice last month — once when the facility was closed and again after the secretary of state's office limited the number of customers in the building — the levels "were largely within" recommended standards.

The rules restricting the number of customers in the facility remain in effect, Haupt said.

The Secretary of State's Office is still looking for a new location for its Driver Services Facility in Champaign-Urbana, he said. Criteria include at least 6,000 square feet (up from the current location's 4,000 square feet), ample parking (the current site has more than 60 spaces), a convenient location and "cost considerations," Haupt said.

Endorsements

— The Fraternal Order of Police state lodge has endorsed Republican Kristin Williamson in the 103rd House District to replace state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson, D-Urbana.

"Your support of collective bargaining rights, your support of law enforcement issues, and your commitment to working families are key reasons why we endorsed your election," the FOP said in its letter to Williamson, who is opposed by Democrat Carol Ammons.

— The Equality Illinois political action committee is endorsing both Democrat Mike Frerichs and Republican Tom Cross for state treasurer.

Both Frerichs, of Champaign, and Cross, of Oswego, voted for a same-sex marriage bill in the Legislature last fall. Cross was one of only three House Republicans to vote for the measure.

"We have come a long way as a society when we have both Republican and Democratic candidates for statewide office agreeing in their support for full equality for LGBT people. And I am proud that Equality Illinois PAC and its fiercely bipartisan work has helped bring this moment about," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.

Events

— The candidates in Champaign County Board District 6, incumbent Democrat Pattsi Petrie and Republican challenger Dan Jackson, will debate tonight, beginning at 7 at the Champaign City Building. Their session will be followed at 8 by a debate between Williamson and Ammons, the 103rd House District candidates. Both debates are open to the public.

— Supporters of Frerichs will hold a send-off celebration for him from 5-6:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 at the Illinois Terminal building, 45 E. University Ave., C. For more information, call 312-854-8018.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or kacich@news-gazette.com.

Columnist

Tom Kacich is a columnist and the author of Tom's Mailbag at The News-Gazette. His column appears Sundays. His email is tkacich@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@tkacich).

Trending Videos