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McCaleb: County on verge of 2-1-1 call center

Would you know where to turn in McHenry County if you suddenly found yourself without a job and not enough money to pay the mortgage and utilities, put food on the table and gas in your car?

Or what if you discover that your teenage child is abusing drugs or alcohol? Who do you call for expert help?

Sometimes, finding the resources to help you can be almost as stressful as the situation that has you searching for help in the first place.

McHenry County is close to making that search for available resources so much easier.

The county is expecting to hear back soon from the state on its request to contract with a private call center to bring 2-1-1 emergency phone service to McHenry and other northern Illinois counties.

Dave Barber, outgoing director of the United Way of Greater McHenry County, has been spearheading the drive to bring 2-1-1 to the county for several years. And what he says might be his biggest success as United Way director is on the verge of happening just as he’s about to retire.

The Illinois Human Services 211 Collaboration Board was created by legislative act in 2003. Because the board did not have the backing of Rod Blagojevich – then Illinois governor, now Inmate No. 40892-424 – it took several years for it to get established.

Once it was, Barber – working in association with the United Way branches in Kane, Kendall and Lake counties as well as Barrington – made it his mission to get 2-1-1 here.

The 2-1-1 program essentially combines a 24-7 call center with a database of community-based crisis and human service providers. So if you get into a situation as I described above, all you’d need to do is dial 2-1-1. A trained operator on the other end will get the information needed to make a referral to one of our county’s hundreds of providers.

It’s as simple as that.

The United Way branches have agreed to pay for the service based on population. McHenry County’s UW will contribute about $60,000 annually to start.

Barber told me last week that the state could approve our region’s call center as early as the end of this month.

Congratulations to him and everyone who worked on making this program possible. We’ll let our readers know as things move forward.

• • • 

What a debate: If you didn’t see Wednesday night’s debate between area state Reps. Jack Franks and Mike Tryon, you missed an informative, passionate performance.

The two lawmakers argued opposite sides of a referendum on the Nov 6. ballot that, if approved by voters, would change county government to an executive form. In short, it would mean that voters countywide would elect an executive in 2014 who would run the day-to-day operations of the county and have broader powers than the current County Board chairman.

Both Franks, a Democrat, and Tryon, a Republican, came armed with facts and conviction for their sides. Franks, who helped gather the signatures to get the item on the ballot, argued in favor. Tryon, a former County Board member, argued against.

One interesting moment came when the two were asked whether they would run for county executive if the referendum passed.

Franks clearly and emphatically said he would not. Tryon would not commit, though. Tryon said he didn’t want the job, but if someone entered the race whom he feared would abuse the power of the position, he would run.

“I’d vote for you, Mike,” Franks replied. “I think you’d do a good job.”

That's not the king of thing your hear often from politiciians on opposite sides of the aisle.

If you missed the debate or want to see portions of it again, we captured much of it on video. It can be viewed here.

• • •

Speaking of: Early voting for the Nov. 6 election begins Monday. If you can’t make it to the ballot box on Election Day or want to avoid the lines, there are several locations throughout the county where you can go to cast early ballots Monday through Nov. 3.

We’ve got a complete list of times and locations at

Don’t go to the polls unprepared, either. If you aren’t sure whom you’re voting for, you can find candidate responses to our questionnaires as well as video of the candidates at If you want to review our Editorial Board’s endorsements, you can find them at

• • •

Open for business: The owners of Eckel Flea Market in McHenry said there’s some confusion in the community about their business in the wake of recent stories about the possible sale of the building in which they operate.

Carl and Jennifer Eckel rent the building at 3705 W. Elm St., where the flea market currently is located. Property owner Tom Sullivan, however, is looking to sell the building to McHenry business owner Bertram Irslinger, who wants to locate a sporting goods store and shooting range there.

Any pending sale is still several months off, and the Eckels say they’ll continue to operate their weekend flea market out of the building. And even if the plans for the sporting goods store and shooting range go through, they plan to relocate the flea market to another location in McHenry.

“Even if the building does get sold, we’ll still keep the business going,” Carl Eckel told me. “There are plenty of vacant buildings in McHenry.”

I hope this clears up any confusion.

• Dan McCaleb is senior editor of the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4603, or by email at

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