Locals want Thomson prison sold

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THOMSON - Residents said Monday they want the Thomson Correctional Center sold no matter what the asking price is from the state of Illinois.

Republican lawmakers including State House Rep. Rich Morthland want the price of the facility dropped from $165 million to just $61 million. Lawmakers think the Federal Bureau of Prisons would be more likely to buy the center and put prisoners inside if the state sold it for less money.

"The community around here is going down itself because the prison isn't open," Savanna resident Troy Slutts said. "If there's more jobs around here, maybe more people could get jobs."

U.S. House Rep. Bobby Schilling sent a letter to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on June 29th, asking him to drop the price tag of the facility. A cost of just $61 million would cover the remaining mortgage on the facility.

"They're out to hurt the middle man by jacking the prices up to where they make their money," Slutts said of the state government. "If they sell it for less, it's going to help the community anyway."

The facility has sat vacant sine 2001. The state could not financially afford to house prisoners there after it was built. The prison was supposed to bring in about $200 million annually for the local economy.

"Lawmakers need to do something for our town," Thomson resident Robert Heath said. "I want somebody to come in here and say, 'Hey, this is what we're going to do, and we're going to get this prison running.'"

Democrats blame U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf for blocking the sale of the Thomson facility. That has angered U.S. Rep. Candidate Cherri Bustos who says Wolf, a Congressman from Virginia, is getting in the way of 1,100 more jobs in Thomson.

Bustos also thinks selling the prison for anything less than $165 million would sell the state short of what the facility is actually worth. Governor Quinn has not said whether he will support the drop in price.