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WJBD - Local News - Murray Center Regional Coaliton and SIMA Holds Joint Press Conference Regarding State Facility Closures at Capitol

Murray Center Regional Coaltion members, Southern Illinois Mayors Association members, Centralia school students and state officials gather for Wednesday's press conference regarding the closure of several state facilities, including the Murray Center in Centralia and several state prisons.

Carbondale Mayor Joel Fritzler.

State Senator James Clayborne Jr.

State Senator Dave Luechteford.

Murray Center Regional Coaliton and SIMA Holds Joint Press Conference Regarding State Facility Closures at Capitol

By Will Doolin, WJBD News

Wednesday marked another step in fighting to keep state facilities open as members of the Murray Center Regional Coalition and Southern Illinois Mayors Association (SIMA) held a joint press conference in the Capitol building in Springfield.  Coalition members addressed their support to keep facilities such as the Murray Center, Tamms Correctional Center and other facilities that are to be closed open.

Centralia Mayor Tom Ashby stated that Murray Center is one of the best facilities in the state and shouldn't be closed.  He says there is so much support to keep all state facilities open and that they will not give up without at fight.  “We are very honored to have the Southern Illinois Mayors Association standing with me today as well as the elected officials, but the prime part is the students that represents parents, grandparents and siblings of our community and the Murray Center.  We also address the other concerns we have with the prison closures and the youth facilities being closed at what cost, at what cost.  I think we know the answers”, said Ashby.  Ashby presented petitions from SIMA and regional coalition members in support of keeping facilities open.

Carbondale Mayor Joel Fritzler with SIMA addressed everyone, saying the potential closures in southern Illinois will not only affect the region, but also neighboring states such as Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri.  “Some of the services that are being proposed to being closed those services are going to be leaving the state.  Towns, municipalities and counties are all going to be seeking out those services in Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri.  So those are going to be Illinois dollars leaving the state.  When you add up all the jobs and services being lost in southern Illinois, compared to those being lost in the rest of the state, we're talking about an attack on the quality of life, the standard of living and the livelihood of an entire region on the state of Illinois, a region that was already economically depressed and stressed before this entire economic situation came upon us four or five years ago”, said Fritzler.  

State Senator James Clayborne, Jr. says the fight to save Murray Center is not only a professional one, but a personal one for him as well.  “I have a first cousin at Murray Center.  So for me it's personal in the sense that it's an issue of making sure that my cousin and those other residents who live there have the best quality of life that we can provide and that's very important.  It's also important to save the jobs”, said Clayborne.  

State Senator Dave Luechtefeld says the state does need to make better choices, but not at the expense of eliminating jobs and displacing residents out of their homes.  “One of the other legislators came up with this statistic.  If you were to count the number of jobs that have been cut in southern Illinois from what the Governor has done, it would be an equivalent if you were to cut 125,000 jobs out of Chicago, compared to the population.  Now I ask you, where would the governor be today if 125,000 jobs left Chicago?  I guarantee you he wouldn't be in this building.  He would be in Chicago and he would be saying to us, what can we do to keep these jobs”, said Luechtefeld.  

He says the decision to close facilities has not been thought through, but states it is in Governor Pat Quinn's hands now.  The Senate voted last week to reject Quinn's budget cuts of $56 million to funds for the facilities.  However the House did not consider an override vote during the last day of the fall veto session.  Therefore, Quinn's budget cuts will stand, which could force the closure of some facilities within the next few weeks to few months.  

Other legislators that spoke at the press conference included State Representative John Cavaletto, State Senator Kyle McCarter, State Representative Brandon Phelps and newly elected State Representative Charlie Meier of the 108th District.  Cavaletto said their voice is strong and will stay that way as long as they continue to fight the closures.  McCarter stated the state's priorities are not in balance as thousands of dollars is spent on other programs instead of state facilities.  Phelps stated it bothers him that the Governor would disregard the fact that the legislature worked very hard to save jobs and fund facilities in the area.  Meier questioned the Governor stating why would someone close down facilities in the worst economically impacted area of the state of Illinois.

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