Madison-Champaign ESC may move headquarters

The Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center is considering moving to the former Lawnview Child and Family Center on U.S. Route 68.

Dan Kaffenbarger, superintendent of the Educational Service Center, which is currently located in the Community Center of Urbana, said it’s an opportunity to move all of the ESC’s operations into a central location.

This would be a move into familiar territory for the ESC — the building was originally the site for its preschool.

County commissioners own the building, but Champaign County Board of Developmental Disabilities has managed the building since its opening and was providing the building to the ESC. But the ESC had to move the preschool when Developmental Disabilities decided to make the building its central location last year.

However, it could not move in because of government regulations concerning the site, so the building now sits empty.

Laura Zureich, superintendent of the Champaign County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said they were going to move into the building and had blueprints created for renovation.

“And then some federal initiative that’s going to affect all 50 states in the Developmental Disabilities made the board re-evaluate the direction that we’re going,” she said.

The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services enacted a rule intended to combat the isolation of individuals with developmental disabilities by ensuring that they receive care in an integrated setting. So the Developmental Disabilities board decided it wouldn’t need to move into the larger facility, Zureich said.

Kaffenbarger said he doesn’t know how much the building would cost but thinks it would be low because the building is currently sitting empty. At a Jan. 26 meeting, the ESC board approved a feasibility study to determine the cost of relocating.

“Some of the space where we would be moving would have to be repurposed,” Kaffenbarger said. “That study will provide an estimate of what that might cost.”

Kaffenbarger hopes to have results from the study back by the end of this month. The ESC also discussed a capital improvement plan at the meeting, which would look further into moving into the building.

“They will evaluate the facility and estimate what major structures or systems in the building will need to be renovated or replaced within the next 10 years,” he said. “(With) a building that’s in good shape, the plan will be sparse because there won’t be much to fix.”

Kaffenbarger said he expects the improvement plan will come back with only basic fixes because Developmental Disabilities has taken good care of the building.

Currently, the ESC is spending over $75,000 for its headquarters and transition unit, Kaffenbarger said. He said it would have to be able to operate the new facility at around the same price.

“We don’t want our operation cost to increase,” Kaffenbarger said. “There’s several hurdles to clear yet before we have an idea of if this can happen and then when it could happen.”

A lot depends on Developmental Disabilities, he added. If it passes a resolution to transfer the building to the ESC, the county commissioners would have to approve it. Then the ESC would accept that transfer at its March 23 meeting, provided the feasibility study gives the go-ahead.

“If they (Developmental Disabilities) do nothing and decide to put the building on the open market,” he said, “then that would put us out of the picture.”

At that point, the ESC would remain at its current location, Kaffenbarger said.

Zureich said the chances of everything going well appear good. Kaffenbarger is hopeful.

“This is our best opportunity to move,” he said. “We’ve looked at other locations in the past, but none of them have met the need where we would be able to consider moving from our current location.”

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