A popular driver's license facility in Libertyville could be forced to close if the state doesn't pay four months in back rent within 45 days, the landlord said.
Stephen Martin, whose family owns the Brookside shopping center on the 300 block of Peterson Road that houses the Secretary of State office, has sent a letter to state officials saying he wishes to terminate the lease agreement because of the long-overdue payments. Martin said the state owes him nearly $43,000 in back rent and expenses.
It's not the first time the state has fallen behind on payments for the facility, which opened in 1987, Martin said. Payments were six months overdue by the time a check was cut in December, and this past April the state owed Martin four months worth of rent when it finally paid.
The continued payment problems essentially breach the lease contract, he said. If the state doesn't pay up this time, Martin said, he will go to court and begin eviction proceedings.
Martin realizes closing the driver's license facility could inconvenience a lot of people who rely on it to take road tests, renew vehicle registrations, make changes to their licenses or handle other state business.
"But that's not my problem," he said.
Elizabeth Kaufman, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, said the payments - handled by the state comptroller - are beyond her agency's control. Even so, the agency is working to resolve the issue before eviction becomes necessary, she said.
"We expect the rent to be paid," Kaufman said.
The delinquent rent checks are symptomatic of the state's ongoing financial problems. The comptroller's office has $4.3 billion in unpaid bills in its system, spokesman Alan Henry said this week.
Several state lawmakers have faced eviction because of late payments; just this week, state Rep. Sandy Cole of Grayslake temporarily began working out of her house because her office was shut down.
Martin formerly had been sympathetic to the state's problems but no longer is willing to carry its debt on his back.
"Especially now, because it's property-tax (payment) time," he said.
In the past, he's been willing to compromise and accept partial payments. But not anymore, not with his own bills coming due.
"Right now I need it all," he said.
The secretary of state's office's only other Lake County facility is in Waukegan. One is just across Lake-Cook Road in Deerfield, too.