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updated: 3/29/2012 3:05 PM

Controversy swirls around St. Charles youth center work

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  • Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles could get some construction upgrades to accommodate additional inmates moved from facilities that are slated to be closed.

       Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles could get some construction upgrades to accommodate additional inmates moved from facilities that are slated to be closed.
    LAURA STOECKER | Staff Photographer

By Ryan Voyles

SPRINGFIELD -- As Gov. Pat Quinn prepares to close some Illinois youth centers that house juvenile offenders, the facility in St. Charles is slated for millions of dollars worth of upgrades to handle more than 100 new inmates he wants to transfer there.

But the state's largest employee union says the state shouldn't be planning such upgrades yet, as Quinn's plans aren't yet final.

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With the governor's proposed closures of youth centers in Joliet and southern Illinois' Murphysboro, more than 100 prisoners would have to relocate. At least 132 prisoners from Joliet would be moved to Illinois Youth Center St. Charles, according to a state website announcing some of the upgrades.

To prepare for the influx of new inmates, six buildings at the Youth Center will need to be renovated, according to the website, including roof replacements, asbestos abatement, window installation and updating security systems.

Cost estimates and details about when construction would start are expected within the week, and work is expected to last several months, said Capital Development Board spokesman Dave Blanchette.

At this point, renovations are expected to cost $4 million, including previous construction at the St. Charles facility in the last year.

"It's a 100-year-old facility, so the place needs work," Blanchette said.

But Anders Lindall, spokesman for the American Federation for State, County and Municipal Employees union, said the construction is a violation of state law because the state can't start implementing facility closure plans until 50 days after they're announced. It hasn't been that long yet, Lindall said, calling the construction a "blatant disregard" for the law.

Some Illinois lawmakers want Quinn's administration to stop construction, claiming it violates state law on closing state facilities, the Associated Press reported today.

The bipartisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability believes work on the Illinois Youth Center at St. Charles violates a requirement that the administration take no action to close a facility for 50 days after announcing it.

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