Dignitaries Announce Sale of Thomson Correctional Facility.
By JOHN HUGGINS
For The Prairie Advocate News
THOMSON, IL – Good news, but is it great news? The State of Illinois will receive two checks totaling $165 million (to keep under the $100 million ceiling, checks were written for $99 and $66 million) for the purchase of the shuttered Thomson Correctional Center. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, and Thomson Mayor Jerry “Duke” Hebeler held a press conference outside the Thomson Village Hall Tuesday, October 2, to announce the transfer of ownership of the facilities to the Federal Government. The transfer took place earlier in the day in Rockford, Illinois.
The good news: Illinois will have $165 million to put toward taking a tiny bite out of its huge deficit. Plus the State Government will no longer have to pay approximately $800,000 for the upkeep of the empty prison.
According to Durbin’s office, the local economic impact of the annual operation of the facilities is expected to generate more than $122 million in operating expenditures (including salaries), $19 million in labor income, and $61 million in local business sales.
Why not great news? Many local residents share U.S. Congressman Bobby Schilling’s (R- Moline) skepticism. The center will require construction expenditures to repair and upgrade, which is not included in this year’s Federal Budget. Neither are the operating costs. These items will have to be placed in next year’s budget. But the question is, will those items pass?
“I have to give special credit not only to Mayor Duke Hebeler (with the idea of transferring the prison from the State to the Federal Government), stated Durbin, “but also to the person who made it happen today … President Obama.”
“It really began here in this small town in Illinois, led by a great mayor and a group of village trustees who saw the possibility of taking a prison that was empty and selling it to the federal government at a fair and reasonable price,” stated Governor Quinn. “We sold it today for $165 million. That’s a lot of money. That’s money that’s going to come to the people of Illinois to help pay our bills. We have bills to pay, we all know that.”
Gov. Quinn says money from the sale of the Thomson Correctional Center should be used to pay off the prison’s bond debt and Illinois lawmakers will decide what to do with the remaining funds.
U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia), chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee that controls the Justice Department budget, opposed the sale because of concerns that President Obama would give the order to move Guantanamo Bay detainees to the Thomson location. Durbin stated that Wolf was still convinced, despite repeated assurances to the contrary by Attorney General Eric Holder, including under oath in a Senate hearing, that the detainees would be moved to the facilities.
Many Illinois officials were on hand to hear the announcement including Congressman Schilling (R-17th), State Representative Jim Sacia (R-89th), State Rep. Rich Morthland (R-71st), Savanna Mayor Larry Stebbins, and Thomson Village Trustees. Also present to hear the news were many local citizens and members of the press.
Although not present at the press conference, State Senator Mike Jacobs (D-Moline) released a statement. “These are additional dollars to our state budget, but more importantly, it brings the possibility of thousands of jobs in our area,” said Sen. Jacobs. “We have strong leadership at the federal level. President Barack Obama, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Governor Pat Quinn, the President of Thomson, IL Jerry Duke Hebeler and I all fought hard for this, and I am pleased we are moving forward.”
Coincidentally, or maybe not, Republican vice president candidate Paul Ryan was campaigning right across the river in Clinton, Ia. and the Quad Cities. Some speculated that the Obama Administration pushed this through on the same day as an attempt to overshadow Ryan’s visit. Especially since very few people knew about the sale or the press conference until less than two hours prior to the announcement. A majority of the state and federal officials in attendance of the press conference found out within that same short time.
Rep. Morthland urges businesses in the area to start thinking about the possibility of selling goods and services to the Department of Justice.
“There will be opportunities anywhere from construction to computer maintenance to funeral homes,” he stated. For information about opportunities, regulations, and procedures for selling to the U.S. Government visit the U.S. Government Services Administration (GSA) website at http://www.gsa.gov or call 312-353-5384.