Thomson Village Leaders Call on Illinois to Make Share of Bond P - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Thomson Village Leaders Call on Illinois to Make Share of Bond Payments

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The Village of Thomson has found itself in a world of financial trouble. Unless the state of Illinois comes through with payments its made in the past, Thomson could be forced to default on its municipal bonds this summer.

At issue is money owed on the waste water treatment plant and water tower the village had to build in 2000 to support the expected population increase from the Thomson Prison.

Thomson paid for the construction with $4,090,000 in municipal bonds. Those bonds were to be paid off using revenue from selling water and sewer service to the prison.

But because the prison never fully opened, that revenue never materialized.

So, since 2001, the state of Illinois has been paying a portion of the bond payments - its "share" based on what the prison's expected usage was.

That is, until now.

When the prison was sold to the Federal Bureau of Prisons last year, the state stopped making payments.

"If we don't get any money, we could really be in bad shape," Jerry "Duke" Hebeler, Thomson Village President, said.

The Village of Thomson is in rough shape already.

Until Thomson Prison opens as a federal prison - next year at the earliest - there's no revenue coming in from it to help pay for the system. And, since the state stopped helping with the bond payments, the village has had to come up with the entire amount on its own.

It has exhausted its reserve fund to make just the first payment of the year. And, there's still another payment due in August.

"We have been writing and talking to anyone who will listen. We're very concerned," said Thomson Village Trustee Vicky Trager, who chairs the Water and Sewer Committee on the village board.

Between bond and interest payments, operation and maintenance, capital improvements, and its portion of the EPA excess fee, Thomson Village leaders say the state's share for this fiscal year is about $375,000.

That is $375,000 the village simply doesn't have, and can't expect its 265 total water and sewer customers to cover.

"This is through no fault of our own. We've done everything the state of Illinois and the department of corrections has asked of us," Trager said, "And we don't feel like we should be punished for being as supportive as we've been."

Now, they say, they need the support from their state representatives to find a solution to this mess.

Village trustees say they're hopeful the money to finally open the prison will be included in the next federal budget, which starts in October.

But, with federal spending cuts in the pipeline, there's clearly no guarantee.

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