WIUM Tristates Public Radio

U of I Extensions Prepare To Restructure

Macomb, IL – A restructuring plan at the University of Illinois Extension service will mean the consolidation of county offices, and the closure of a dozen Center offices, including the one in Macomb.

Offices around the state are now awaiting word about their futures. The deadline for each office to submit reorganization proposals was Monday. They could learn as early as Friday whether their proposals were accepted.

Lisa Fulkerson is McDonough County's extension director. She says her office could merge with Hancock, Henderson and Warren Counties. She says that merger would make the most sense given their geographic locations, and the services offered.

"We have a very big emphasis in youth," says Fulkerson. "We get a lot of foot traffic in and out of the office and also phone calls asking agriculture and horticulture questions."

Cuts to the extension service seek to save money on rent, administrative and maintenance costs. More than 40 director positions, such as Fulkerson's, will be cut. But Fulkerson says some of those directors may be brought back as educators if there's room. Each consolidated office will contain three educators, as opposed to the one educator present in each present office.

Fulkerson says the McDonough County office will do its best to maintain funding for activities and services throughout 2010 with help from the county 4-H Federation, but beyond that is anyone's guess.

"They do have the funding, thanks to several successful porkchop barbecues and things of that nature, to do that, but probably only on a one year basis," says Fulkerson. "It's not something we're going to be able to fall back on forever."

The Extension Center offices, including the one in Macomb, will close at the end of June.