Thomson Area Sees Slow Progress With Prison - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Thomson Area Sees Slow Progress With Prison

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US Senator Dick Durbin says progress is continuing at the prison in Thomson, Illinois. However, many people in that community say the facility is taking too long to open.

"We're moving forward on the construction that's necessary to make sure by the end up next year it's ready to be open for business," Sen. Durbin said. "We're hiring people out there. Finally, after waiting more than 10 years, this is becoming a reality."

The prison is expected to employ around 1,100 people. The Village of Thomson president, Vicky Trager, says no more than seven people have been hired as of Saturday. She says she has been in contact with representatives from the Bureau of Prisons, who say not much else can be done until a warden has been appointed.

The major holdup is Congress. Lawmakers have approved nearly $60 million in funding, but have not released it yet. Meanwhile, President Trager says she hasn't seen much movement at the prison.

"We were hoping, within a matter of months, we would start seeing a great deal of activity this summer," she said. "We're in August now, almost. So, we're still hopeful. We're a little frustrated, but just because we're frustrated doesn't mean we're not optimistic."

Once everything gets going, she says she expects new businesses to open in Thomson, in order to serve the influx of people. However, she says she doesn't expect a lot of people to move in right away, due to a lack of vacant housing in Thomson. The surrounding communities are also expected to benefit from the prison, and some homes have been purchased in neighboring Fulton. Still, some residents say they're tired of waiting.

"It has taken forever," Fulton resident Kyle Davis said. "We've heard the good, the bad. So, when it opens, we'll believe it."

"I'd really like to see our legislators move this forward as quick as possible," Mount Carroll resident Debbie Hereau said. "All of these surrounding towns around the prison, we're all desperately needing some jobs, and some revenue coming in. Schools are suffering. So, the sooner this prison opens up the better it's going to be for the community.

President Trager is in touch with representatives from Sen. Durbin's office, along with President Obama's Chief of Staff. Both say the prison remains a priority.

The facility was designed to be a maximum security prison with a minimum security wing. However, once completed, in 2001, there wasn't any money to pay for staff and operations, so it stood empty. In summer 2004, former Governor Rod Blagojevich pushed to close Pontiac Correctional Center, with the idea to save the state money, and utilize the then-new Thomson prison. However, that didn't go very far. In November 2009, the federal government announced it wanted to house terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay at Thomson. That part of the deal fell through, but the government continued the purchasing process to turn Thomson into a federal prison in 2012.US Senator Dick Durbin says progress is continuing at the prison in Thomson, Illinois. However, many people in that community say the facility is taking too long to open.

"We're moving forward on the construction that's necessary to make sure by the end up next year it's ready to be open for business," Sen. Durbin said. "We're hiring people out there. Finally, after waiting more than 10 years, this is becoming a reality."

The prison is expected to employ around 1,100 people. The Village of Thomson president, Vicky Trager, says no more than seven people have been hired as of Saturday. She says she has been in contact with representatives from the Bureau of Prisons, who say not much else can be done until a warden has been appointed.

The major holdup is Congress. Lawmakers have approved nearly $60 million in funding, but have not released it yet. Meanwhile, President Trager says she hasn't seen much movement at the prison.

"We were hoping, within a matter of months, we would start seeing a great deal of activity this summer," she said. "We're in August now, almost. So, we're still hopeful. We're a little frustrated, but just because we're frustrated doesn't mean we're not optimistic."

Once everything gets going, she says she expects new businesses to open in Thomson, in order to serve the influx of people. However, she says she doesn't expect a lot of people to move in right away due to a lack of vacant housing in Thomson. The surrounding communities are also expected to benefit from the prison, and some homes have been purchased in neighboring Fulton. Still, some residents say they're tired of waiting.

"It has taken forever," Fulton resident Kyle Davis said. "We've heard the good, the bad. So, when it opens, we'll believe it."

"I'd really like to see our legislators move this forward as quick as possible," Mount Carroll resident Debbie Hereau said. "All of these surrounding towns around the prison, we're all desperately needing some jobs, and some revenue coming in. Schools are suffering. So, the sooner this prison opens up the better it's going to be for the community."

President Trager is in touch with representatives from Sen. Durbin's office, along with President Obama's Chief of Staff. Both say the prison remains a priority.

The prison was built in 2001, designed to be a maximum security prison with a minimum security wing. However, once completed, there wasn't any money to pay for staff and operations, so it stood empty. In summer 2004, former Governor Rod Blagojevich pushed to close Pontiac Correctional Center, with the idea to save the state money, and utilize the then-new Thomson prison. However, that didn't go very far. In November 2009, the federal government announced it wanted to house terror suspects from Guantanamo Bay at Thomson. That part of the deal fell through, but the government continued the purchasing process to turn Thomson into a federal prison in 2012.

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