THOMSON, Ill. — While elected officials hailed Tuesday’s announcement that the Thomson Correctional Facility had been sold to the federal government as the end of a long process, others in the northwest Illinois community remain skeptical.
Village Board President Jerry “Duke” Hebeler, Gov. Pat Quinn and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., announced at a news conference Tuesday at Thomson Village Hall that the
long-vacant prison had been sold to the federal government for $165 million for use as a federal prison.
Officials said they did not have information about what changes would be made to the facility to bring it up to federal standards, when the hiring process would begin or when the prison might be open.
Durbin credited Hebeler with coming up with the idea of selling the state prison, which has gone virtually unused since its completion in 2001, to the federal government for use as a federal prison.
“It has been a long journey to this moment,” Durbin said.
The fact that the announcement was made one day before the first debate between Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney and fewer than 40 days before the election wasn’t lost on Janet St. Ores of Thomson.
“This is just an election-year gimmick, that’s all it is,” she said.
The prison opening is expected to bring more than 1,000 jobs to the area, jobs Quinn said the area needs.
“There’s no such thing as Democratic jobs or Republican jobs,” he said. “They’re American jobs.”
While local residents have traditionally met news about plans to open the prison with skepticism, Hebeler said the fact that the federal government paid the money for the prison Tuesday gives Thomson residents reason to believe this time the plan will come to fruition.
“This is different,” he said. “They’ll do the job.”
At Dusty’s Pizza Place down the street from the Village Hall, owner Sue Spittler said the opening of the prison would be a big boost for her business and others in town, and she thought Tuesday’s announcement was a step in the right direction.
Still, she said she is skeptical and thinks others in the community feel the same way.
“Nobody’s jumping up and down about it, really,” she said. “I probably still have a better chance of winning the lottery.”