ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Rockford area leaders have some strong words for the Secretary of State's Office after it announced it's closing the city's west side DMV at the end of the month.
"We don't accept this," said Victory Bell, former Rockford alderman and DMV employee.
Rockford area residents and leaders are furious that the DMV on Auburn St. is relocating to Baxter Rd. near I-39. They say the worst part is they weren't even notified.
"For God sakes when we're working with the federal government and the GSA when they're talking about moving a location out of downtown we're in the loop on those conversations, we're not always happy with the outcome but at least we've been in the loop on those," says Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey.
Mayor Morrissey says he spoke with the Secretary of State and Jesse White said he didn't know what was going on in his own office. However one alderman disagrees.
Seventh Ward Alderman Ann Thompson-Kelly said, "He had to have knowledge of something, I'm sorry you can't play that game with me."
White now says he'll do everything he can to work with the community. City leaders are now looking at other nearby locations where they can open up another DMV, like the Singer Mental Health Center. The facility is scheduled to close in the Fall. And the state wouldn't have to pay for the space since it already owns the property.
West side resident Regina Wilson is hoping for a new, closer DMV,
"They're taking everything away, especially for the people who are disabled, you have to pay someone to take you out on the I-39, that's terrible," said Wilson.
There is also talk about expanding the East State St. DMV or creating a satellite office. Another option would be to make the Roscoe DMV a full-service facility. Morrissey says they will be meeting very shortly with Secretary White to come up with some sort of solution.
A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's Office say the bids for a new location went out in March and only three people responded, none of which were located on the west side. A second bid was for property by the CherryVale Mall and another was by Alpine and Harlem roads. The spokeswoman says negotiations with the owner of the Auburn St. DMV failed. She said thw owner didn't want to make all the necessary improvements, like repaving.
It's too late to change the Baxter location, because contracts have already been signed. The $66,000 contract is good for five years, with three five-year options. The new DMV on Baxter Rd. will open in September.
The DMV was relocated to Baxter Rd., to better accomodate CDL drivers, since the Auburn location was the only Winnebago County DMV that distributed CDL's.