MURPHYSBORO, IL (KFVS) - Union workers say it will cost jobs and the local economy, millions of dollars if the state closes the Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro. But Governor Pat Quinn says closing the youth center will help clean up a budget shortfall.
The debate drew hundreds to a commission hearing on the future of IYC.
"Put yourself in our shoes, you know it's not an easy place to be," IYC Nurse Julie Nolan told the commission.
Both Nolan and her husband work at IYC in Murphysboro. Nolan said since her job is a contract position there are no other jobs for her in the area.
"I've got 10 years of corrections, Department of Juvenile Justice system experience and have nowhere to go because there are no sites that contractual company has, they are all up north," Nolan said.
"It's not easy for us to just pack up our family and leave our families and leave southern Illinois."
The commission faced that message in the form of signs outside the meeting hall, words on T-shirts and a message on Tonya Knust's car. "I was born and raised here and going to 45 minutes-50 minutes away, that's a good haul I don't want to have to do that on a daily basis," Knust said.
But, it's reality that many could face is Quinn closes the youth facility. That's a projected loss of 150 jobs in the area, worth almost $9 million. It's a loss that Murphysboro Mayor Ron Williams says would devastate the area.
"When a person comes in and says we're going to close this facility and can't find a good reason under the numbers, and numbers can say what you want them to, but you are affecting lives," Williams told the commission members.
Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice Director Arthur Bishop said, it's the numbers of the state budget which are to blame for the possible closure. He added closing IYC would save the state 6.2 million dollars annually.
"It allowed us to close the shortfall gap that we received with the approved budget as opposed to the recommend budget," Bishop said.
But Republican State Senator David Luechtefeld argued, "Much of your testimony will be suspect obviously because you have been told by the governor we're going to close a facility. Figure out a way to explain why."
Despite any of the augments presented Wednesday, those like IYC employee Dennis Crow were still left with a question mark surrounding the future of their employment.
"It's consumed me and my family and extensions of my family and into the community," Crow said.
Several advocacy organizations told the commission they supported the closure of IYC Murphysboro.
Eventually the commission will make a recommendation to the governor.