Illinois corrections owes city $1.2 million in utilities
CHESTER, Ill. -- The Illinois Department of Corrections owes the city of Chester about $1.2 million for water, sewer and gas services.
The Belleville News-Democrat (http://bit.ly/299nQov ) reports that the department, which has nearly 1,000 state jobs at the Menard Correctional Center, has not paid the city for the services since last fall.
Chester Mayor Tom Page says there was concern that if the utilities were shut off and the prison's more than 3,500 inmates were moved somewhere else, the inmates and jobs would not return.
"There's a scare that, if they would have to evacuate the facility and move those people somewhere else, that they'd have to bring Menard back up to code before they put people back in," said Page, who happens to be a former warden at the prison. "I don't want the scare of losing close to a thousand jobs. I wouldn't want that to be my legacy."
But Page said if his hand is forced, he will shut off the utilities.
Page says he's been in frequent contact with legislators and state officials, and has been told not to worry.
"They're trying to tell me to hang on, that it's going to be OK. I have a pretty good feeling in my gut that they're getting closer in Springfield," he said. "It's my understanding they're getting close to having a stopgap budget approved, but we've heard that before."
Lawmakers have gone almost a year without agreeing on a budget.
Chester isn't the only community trying to wring payments out of the Department of Corrections during the state's year-long budget impasse.
For example, the Mount Sterling City Council voted 6-0 Monday to keep the water on at Western Illinois Correctional Center, even though DOC owes the city of 1,900 residents about $313,000 for water service.
Information from: Belleville News-Democrat, http://www.bnd.com