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Former juvenile center brings new purpose to Kewanee

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KEWANEE, Illinois - The Kewanee Youth Center will soon serve a new purpose. It closed last July, delivering a huge blow to the community and leaving hundreds out of work.

People are now breathing a sigh of relief.

"They would come in here you know, they would talk about being concerned about not having an income," said business owner, Teresa Mirocha.

At her business Hillside Florist, it's something Mirocha has noticed among her customers.

"I think it`s just a huge sigh of relief that you know, that they`re going to have a job. It's just you know a better feeling in the community," said Mirocha.

The former juvenile center in Kewanee has sat vacant for the last six months ever since the state decided to close it.

"They had too many beds in the juvenile system so they had to have a closure in order to be more efficient," said city manager Gary Bradley.

The Kewanee community fought to keep it open and save its 240 jobs.

It wasn't enough, the facility that was built in 2001 to house juvenile inmates closed.

"It would have been between $50 to $70 million dollars a year in an economic impact on the community," said Bradley.

However, the facility is getting ready to reopen. The state is now making it a corrections center for adults, specializing in helping inmates get ready for life outside prison walls.

"This could be a model not just for the state of Illinois, but for the entire country to use in criminal justice systems," said Bradley.

Right now there's no official word how many jobs the move will create or when the facility will reopen, but businesses in Kewanee are taking it all as good news.

"It`s always concerning when people are losing jobs, because that affects every business in town, that won`t help the economy at all," said Mirocha.

Before the center can be reopened, a 30 day notice has to be sent out to the public. Bradley says he's told that should be soon.

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