Prison closure brings budget holes in local community

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Kendall Downing

TAMMS, Ill. - The state of Illinois moved its last prisoners out of the Super-max prison at Tamms in December of 2012. Governor Pat Quinn vowed closing the prison would save the state money.

But now the village of Tamms is feeing the financial effects, and the mayor anticipates tough years are to come.

Tamms Mayor Buddy Mitchell doesn't hide it. Times are hard.

"We have to tighten our belts and move forward. I'm not going to let this get me down. I'm not going to let this run me off," said Mitchell.

He took office in May and started researching the village's finances.

Tamms has an operating budget of roughly $1 million. Mitchell estimates the prison accounted for 30% of their revenue.

"losing this facility reached out to everything in our operation," he said.

Hardest hit are the utilities. The state's still making payments on their bills. Usage now is at the bare minimum, equating to a loss of about $150,000 a year.

Mitchell said water and sewer lines that run to the prison must be maintained. A special water tower was even put up on site to accommodate the increased need.

The village cut it full-time police officer and made him part time. They've also eliminated a full-time maintenance worker.

"We're a big operation with a little income and a few people to maintain it," said Mitchell.

The prison isn't the only place that closed. A flower shop shut down. The mayor said the convenience store is now only open six days a week.

Mitchell worries what will happen to the moth-balled prison.

"There's no one in here saying ok, Tamms, we're just trying to get rid of this monster out here. And with that in mind, we're just out in the dark," he said.

The Illinois Department of Corrections confirmed Tuesday there are no imminent plans to sell the prison.

There is still a 24-hour fire watch there. IDOC says though it's closed, expenditures at the facility are $16,835 a month.

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