Federal officials remain committed to opening a vacant prison in northwest Illinois. But securing funding remains a key obstacle in getting the facility in Thomson up and running.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and 17th District Congresswoman Cheri Bustos hosted a meeting in Thomson on Thursday. They updated officials in this tiny community about the status of the prison, which has sat mostly unused over the past decade. The state of Illinois originally built the facility, but never had the funds to fully open it.
The prison was sold to the federal government last fall. While the president and the Senate have set aside money to activate Thomson, the House has yet to commit the necessary funds. Illinois' junior Senator Mark Kirk is said to be reaching out to key player in the lower chamber to get him to reconsider.
Meanwhile, Durbin says he understands why residents in Thomson are trying to keep their hopes in check.
"I can understand the frustrations of local people. For 16 years they've been given nothing but promises, but nothing has happened," Durbin said.
Supporters of the effort say opening the prison could bring as many as 11-hundred jobs to a struggling region. If Congress approves a budget with money for Thomson, Durbin says the prison could open by 2015.