Pontiac mayor, governor talk about prison closure

Adriana Colindres

Ever since Pat Quinn became Illinois governor, Pontiac Mayor Scott McCoy has sought to talk with him about the need to keep open the Pontiac Correctional Center, which ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich slated for closure.

Monday, McCoy got his chance.

McCoy, who met last week with a top Quinn aide, spoke with the governor one-on-one for "about a minute" after they and other government officials concluded a meeting about a proposed high-speed rail corridor connecting Chicago and St. Louis.

Even though Quinn didn't tip his hand about the prison's fate, McCoy said he is confident the governor will keep it running.

"He didn't say one way or the other what was going to happen with the prison," McCoy said. "But he did say we'll be hearing from him very soon."

If Quinn considers "the numbers and the facts," McCoy said, he'll recognize that closing the prison would be a bad move for the state.

Blagojevich said last year he wanted to close the Pontiac prison to save the state $4 million per year. Part of his plan also involved fully opening a newer prison at Thomson. The move would have affected about 600 prison employees and roughly 1,500 inmates at Pontiac.

Opponents of the prison closure, however, said his decision was politically motivated, targeting the districts of lawmakers who supported legislation that could have led to his recall from office.

Blagojevich wanted to close the Pontiac prison by the end of 2008, but his Dec. 9 arrest and various lawsuits related to the closure put the brakes on those plans.

Quinn, also a Democrat, became governor in January after Blagojevich was forced out of office.

McCoy said that in his brief conversation with the governor Monday, he thanked Quinn for his work.

Quinn replied that Pontiac is "a great Main Street community." As lieutenant governor, Quinn was deeply involved in the Illinois Main Street program, which targets economic development in the downtowns of communities.

"There's no question he's well aware of Pontiac," McCoy said. "He's well aware of me. I hope to keep it that way, because this is too big not to go at it 100 percent."

Quinn's plans for the prison could become clear on March 18, when he delivers his budget address to the General Assembly.

Adriana Colindres can be reached at (217) 782-6292 oradriana.colindres@sj-r.com.