STERLING – A Conservation Police officer loaded a file cabinet on a dolly and pushed it out of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources office in Sterling late Friday morning. He asked his supervisor where it was going.
“All of that goes to Castle Rock,” said Hank Frazier, acting regional commander for the Conservation Police.
The office was nearly empty by noon. All phones were disconnected.
Without a public announcement, the agency moved out of its office at 2317 E. Lincolnway after about 15 years there. The days of a regional office are over.
The DNR apparently didn’t even notify local law enforcement agencies. Lee County Sheriff John Varga said he knew of no notification from the state.
IDNR has seen its workforce over the past decade cut in half. At one time, 16 people worked in the Sterling office. Nine were there in the end.
The office was much bigger than what nine employees needed. Frazier pointed to offices that had been unused.
The rent was $12,000 a month, another reason the agency gave for its exit.
Now, Conservation Police officers and other employees are moving to state parks such as Morrison-Rockwood, Castle Rock and White Pines.
“We’re not going to have a centrally located office anymore,” Frazier said.
It’s not as needed as it once was, he said, with people able to do their business with IDNR online.
Frazier referred residents with questions to a Springfield IDNR phone number (217-782-6302). That office, he said, will refer people to area employees if needed.
“We have to get the message out,” Frazier said.
A worker from the local water company showed up to turn off service. An officer pointed her to the valve.
She left, but returned moments later.
“I’m going to have to turn your water back on,” she told Frazier.
Cutting off IDNR’s water, she said, affected the next-door acupuncture business.
“The landlord will figure it out,” she said.