State's late utility bill payments could spell trouble for Pinckneyville

By Carly O'Keefe - bio | email

PINCKNEYVILLE, IL (KFVS) - The City of Pinckneyville loves the 550 jobs the Pinckneyville Correctional Center provides to the region--but the mayor says he's not sure how much longer the city can afford to float the prison in overdue water, sewer and natural gas bills.

"Are they going to pay next month? The month after? I don't think they know," said Pinckneyville Mayor Joe Holder.

Mayor Holder says the city utility has been stretched to the limit by the State of Illinois' slow payment.

"Instead of paying on 30 days, they pushed it back to 60 days, then 90 days then 120 days, now we're five months in the rears.

That totals more than $1.2 million Pinckneyville is owed to provide water, sewer and natural gas to the Pinckneyville Correctional Center.

"We want to support the prison anyway we can, but we can only go so far," said Holder.

Mayor holder says the state's failure to pay has already dried up the city's emergency reserve fund. If an emergency like a water main break or gas leak were to occur, the city would have to borrow money to fix it.

"We have to provide services for our citizens so the prison can't suck that reserve up," Holder said.

But shutting off the utilities would essentially mean shutting down the town's largest employer. It's something the city doesn't want to do, but eventually may be force to.

"When it becomes financially impossible for the city to provide services to the prison," Holder said. "At a certain point you get to a place where you have to cut the state off, and you have to take care of your own."

The city has already sent bill after bill and letter after letter demanding payment, and will continue to negotiate for payment. The mayor says shutting off power to the prison would be a last resort.

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