State commission votes to keep IYC Murphysboro & Chester Mental Health open

SPRINGFIELD, IL (KFVS) - Nearly 600 workers in southern Illinois fearing budget cuts could take their jobs got some good news from a state advisory board.

Since the governor's announcement that seven facilities may close, workers at Chester Mental Health and IYC Murphysboro have felt that their futures are up in the air.

Thursday, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability voted to keep two local state facilities open.

"It's a roller coaster, you know," said AFSCME Local #2335 president Greg Foreman who is also works at IYC Murphysboro. "One day it's like is this really gonna happen? Is this really happening? Some days we're upbeat, we're gonna beat this, and other days, it's just a roller coaster."

Employees would like to coast back in on the high-note the committee handed down Thursday, but the ride's not over yet.

"I look at it as a positive sign," said Foreman. "One step on a journey we're on."

The governor has the final say on that journey's direction. He'll decide whether IYC or Chester Mental Health employees go to work or head for the unemployment line.

"We're kind of sitting here on a bubble waiting to see what the final decision by the governor may be," said Murphysboro Mayor Ron Williams.

While the commission's decision is not binding, lawmakers say the commission's vote will at least send a message to the governor.

Republican Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro says the commission's unanimous vote to keep Chester Mental Health open sends a stronger message than the 7 - 4 vote in favor of keeping IYC Murphysboro open.

"It is a danger because it is a split vote," said Rep. Bost. "Chester is going to be very clear. But with Murphysboro there was controversy and question."

That's why IYC Murphysboro employees will head to Springfield next month and local leaders say they'll keep calling, writing and protesting in whatever ways they can.

"Beyond that we have no way to reach out other than voice our concerns for our neighbors and the economy of Murphysboro," said Mayor Williams.

IYC employees plan to head to the state capitol November 8. They invite anyone in the community who'd like to help to join their cause.

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