Former Woodstock Aldi space will be new McHenry County election center

Facility near Secretary of State’s Office will have voting equipment, space for trainings

McHenry Count Clerk Joe Tirio waits to hand out time cards to any candidates that might file their candidate forms in the last hour on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, at the McHenry County Clerk's Office in Woodstock. Monday was the last day for candidates to file ahead of the March primaries.

The McHenry County Board has approved a new elections center at 410 S. Eastwood Drive in Woodstock in a space that used to be an Aldi. The elections center also is in the same strip mall as the Woodstock Secretary of State’s Office.

Officials are hoping to move into the new building July 1 ahead of November’s general election. The lease originally was proposed for 10 years, but the County Board approved a seven-year lease. The county can extend the lease for three terms of three years each, according to county documents.

McHenry County expects between $80,000 and $120,000 in buildout costs. The building owner will shoulder the majority of those costs, chipping in an additional $165,000.

The county also expects that moving-related expenses will be about $150,000.

The rent for the first year is estimated to be $282,150, according to county documents.

Within the facility, officials are hoping to have space for people to vote early and attend trainings, among other uses.

Several employees in the McHenry County Clerk’s Office spoke in support of the elections center during a Jan. 16 meeting.

McHenry County could open a new election center at this former Aldi grocery store in Woodstock. Shown Jan. 15, 2024.

“Every election, we are expected to play Jenga with equipment and space in this building in the hopes that one wrong move of a 75-pound piece of equipment doesn’t cause the tower of preparation to fall,” Deputy County Clerk Debra Nieto said during public comments.

Board member Jim Kearns, R-Huntley, supported the proposal and said the voting center’s location near the Woodstock Secretary of State’s Office will bring in more potential early voters.

Board member Larry Smith, R- Harvard, asked if the election center would bring a reduction in staff.

“We could see a dramatic reduction in overtime,” County Clerk Joe Tirio said.

Board member Lou Ness, D-Woodstock, noted that county staff members don’t usually come and ask the board for something.

“It’s important to listen to them,” Ness said.

Some of the board members supported holding off on the elections center for 30 days to conduct further research, but that was voted down. Some also have expressed a preference to buy rather than rent a space for the election center.

Board member Terri Greeno, R-Crystal Lake, expressed support for a 30-day extension, mentioning tax increases in the county that have been passed in recent months.

“I hope that everyone will take a moment and think,” Greeno said.

The seven-year lease ultimately passed 16-2, with board members Eric Hendricks, R-Lake in the Hills, and Michael Skala, R-Huntley, voting against the proposal.