By Bob Bong
The Driver Services Express office that for years had been operating inside Orland Park Village Hall will be reopening soon at the Orland Township building, which is a block away from the village hall.
The Friday announcement triggered a war of words with Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau on one side and Secretary of State Jesse White and Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady on the other.
It started when White announced that his office will enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Orland Township to open a Driver Services facility in the township building at 14807 S. Ravinia Ave. in Orland Park.
The extent of services to be offered and an opening date were not included in the announcement. The old express office handled driver’s licenses, renewals and license plate stickers. No behind-the-wheel tests were administered there.
White said the facility in the village hall at 14700 S. Ravinia Ave. was closed in mid-March as the COVID-19 pandemic was roaring to life because Pekau had made it very clear that he did not want it there and demanded the Secretary of State’s office find another location.
In December, after more than 25 years of providing rent-free space at village hall, the village had asked the Secretary of State’s Office to enter into a lease agreement.
At that time, White’s office said it was looking for a new home for the facility in Orland Park that would be able to offer driving tests and Real ID licenses.
A release from Orland Park on Friday said the decision to close the Village Hall Express Facility was made because of an inability by the Secretary of State’s Office to meet COVID-19 social distancing measures.
It also stated the Secretary of State’s Office was finalizing negotiations with a private property owner in Orland Park. This new location, in a vacant commercial space, would have assured a full-service facility in Orland Park while at the same time benefiting a taxpaying Orland Park property owner. The full-service facility was to include Real ID, road tests, and license plate stickers. The property owner also offered to provide rent-free facilities while the full-service build-out occurred.
In his announcement, White thanked Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady for stepping forward and offering space. “I applaud Township Supervisor Paul O’Grady on this agreement, which reaffirms my commitment to the people of Orland Park and the surrounding communities to bring the best possible service to the people in the area,” said White. “It is unfortunate that the mayor’s actions caused a disruption in local service, but we will move on in bringing convenient services to the people in the southwest suburbs.”
White also thanked state Sen. Bill Cunningham for helping coordinate the agreement between the Secretary of State’s office and Orland Township.
“We are thrilled to partner with the Secretary of State’s office to provide the Department of Motor Vehicle Express Services to the residents of Orland Township and the South Suburbs,” said O’Grady. “The Secretary of State’s office has had a long relationship within Orland Township and we are proud to continue providing these much-needed services under our roof. It has always been my goal as township supervisor to meet the community needs through high-quality and convenient services and with this addition we’re right on track.”
“I want to commend Secretary White and Supervisor O’Grady for working to ensure that Orland residents maintain easy access to Secretary of State services,” Cunningham said. “Repurposing space in an existing publicly-owned building is a low cost, commonsense solution that protects taxpayer dollars and improves government efficiency.”
Pekau said he was happy the office was staying in the village. “I am pleased to learn that a facility is being relocated just across the street from their previous location at village hall,” said Pekau. “The Illinois Secretary of State has been discussing expanded services for our residents since 2001. I hope this will become reality at their new location. Residents will truly benefit from a facility where they can get Real ID, take a road test and get a license plate sticker without having to travel miles away.”
Pekau added it was about time for a full-service facility for the village. “The taxpayers of Orland Park contribute approximately $250 million annually in tax revenue to the State of Illinois,” said Pekau. “The residents of Orland Park have been expecting a full-service facility for almost two decades. The village has been working hard to get a facility that provides Real ID, road tests and license plate stickers instead of just the limited offerings of an express facility that can be obtained online for the most part. It would be very disappointing if township taxpayers have to subsidize another express facility considering that Orland Park was very close to getting a full-service facility.”