Series of misfortunes create backlog at Driver’s License Facilities
By J. Coyden Palmer
A series of unfortunate events have created a perfect storm of problems for people looking to conduct business at the area’s Secretary of State facilities.
Citizens are dealing with long wait times at the sites, reminding many people of experiences with the agency in the 80s and early 90s when a date at the 99th and King Drive office meant hours of frustration. But Secretary of State Jesse White streamlined services when he was elected to the office and the agency is often regarded as one of the more highly rated government entities by citizens.
But due to the COVID pandemic, a political decision and a fire, several local facilities had to close, which means those long lines have returned. But there is relief in sight. One of the facilities reopened last week with others scheduled to reopen in the coming weeks.
“The pandemic didn’t make things easier for us,” said Secretary of State spokesperson Dave Druker. “In the Chicago area we had five facilities that needed to close. In Chicago Heights there was a fire. Our South Holland, Joliet and Schaumburg sites were closed due to an employee testing positive for COVID 19.”
The closing of those four sites meant people looking to get a driver’s license, state I.D. or renew license plate stickers were put in a crunch. But Druker said many of those services were offered online and many people took advantage.
“People should go to our website where—to date—we have done over 900,000 vehicle sticker renewals,” Druker said. “It’s a good idea to check the office hours at the facility you are planning on visiting ahead of time. We have increased our hours at some of them to deal with the situation.”
The West Side facility on Lexington and the South Side facility on 99th and King Drive have been taking the brunt of the overflow of customers, according to Druker. They usually close at 5 p.m. during the week, but the hours have been extended to 6 p.m., and they are also open on Saturdays now for about six hours.
Adding to the closings for COVID-19, the facility in suburban Orland Park was closed on March 16 because the mayor of that town did not want the Secretary of State’s Office in the Village Hall anymore.
Druker said the SOS didn’t see that decision coming, but announced they have worked something out to have service in that area again. The Secretary of State will enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Orland Township to have a Driver Services facility in the Township building at 14087 S. Ravinia Ave. in Orland Park. An opening date will be announced in the near future.
“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 Secretary White in a press release. “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.”
Druker emphasized that with every person who is able to conduct their business online, that is one less person coming into one of the facilities, which is the best way to relieve congestion and long lines.
Understanding that many people will need to renew their driver’s license or update their vehicle sticker, Secretary White extended all expiration dates on driver’s licenses and vehicle plates until October 1. Druker said that will alleviate some of the stress for drivers.
“Our priority right now is to help new drivers, people who have taken the written test but need to come in to do a road test, eye test, have their photo taken or anything else that cannot be done online,” Druker said.
Druker said the SOS is not accepting appointments because in the past when they have done this, the appointments filled up so fast, that it defeated the purpose, as it would take people weeks just to get an open appointment. When people were told all of the appointments were booked, it caused even more frustration, according to Druker.
Facility hours at 99th and King Drive are Monday 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information about the facility nearest you, visit the Secretary of State website at cyberdriveillinois.com.