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WJBD - Local News - Murray Center Coalition Members Question Further Action Needed to Keep Facility Open

Murray Center Coalition Members Question Further Action Needed to Keep Facility Open

By Will Doolin, WJBD News

After eleven months of fighting to save the Murray Center, the Murray Center Coalition is deciding on what the next step should be to keep the facility open.  The coalition met Friday morning to discuss what direction they should be taking.  

Centralia Mayor Tom Ashby believes that their last conservative effort was the lame duck session that concluded this week.  No special action or appropriations were taken to help stop the closure of the Murray Center.  Ashby said the direction they need to focus on is what is best for the residents.  However there was some confusion on what direction that is exactly.  

"I'm talking about my number one priority as a pillar of government, good, bad or indifferent, I see what it is and we need to protect the unserved and the ones who can't help themselves.  If anyone has a different opinion on that, that's their feeling and I'm just telling you mine.  So I think we need to look at that direction and where you want to go with it", said Ashby.  

"What direction is that mayor?  I'm not understanding what you are saying", questioned AFSCME Council 31 Staff Representative Ed LaPorte.

 "The direction is that we are basically going to say that we have a priority for the individuals for the 276 residents", said Ashby.  LaPorte responded, "I know, but what do you mean?  What are you saying?"  Ashby answers, "I don't know what the direction is; so that's one of the reasons why we're having this meeting".  

"You say you're talking about a direction.  What direction are you talking about?  What's the new direction?" questioned LaPorte.  "We're not reaching that because I think there's some other things that we're talking about as a coalition.  It's not a single decision and it's not something that can be done by the coalition itself, okay?" said Ashby.  "Yeah", said LaPorte.

Newly elected State Representative Charlie Meier discussed some of the legislative issues.  He has drafted up a bill that would call for a six-month period from the effective date the bill is made law to observe former residents of the Jacksonville Developmental Center, at which will a detailed report will be submitted to the General Assembly.  The report will contain several aspects that the state so far has not answered to.

"We want a study on all the residents of Jacksonville, if there in CILA's, other facilities, or nursing homes.  We want to know where these residents are.  We now want to know if there has been any changes in their health.  We want to know how close the residents were able to be kept to Jacksonville.  We want to know what the cost savings were to the State of Illinois by having done this.  We also want to know what the cost was to close down the Jacksonville facility and move all these residents", said Meier.  Meier says it is an uphill battle in trying to save the Murray Center, and says there is nothing political about this closure.  

The Murray Parents Association has designed a legal team as their next direction.  The legal team will consist of former State Representative Paul Evans, Steve Croner, Illinois Nurses Association President Karen Kelly, and other MPA members.  They believe at this point the best direction is pursue legal action if necessary and states until action is taken, there is nothing that can be done.  They also state despite their efforts, they do not see any more help coming from Springfield.  

AFSCME Council 31 Staff Representative Ed LaPorte says the union's plan is to continue to mount pressure on state legislators and do what they can to slow down the process of closing and to keep Murray Center open.  There will be meetings next week at Murray Center with staff to discuss what they need to be doing to ensure the safety of their residents.  

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