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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • 10-year-old state debts plague Galesburg detention center

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  • Editor's note: This is the latest installment in our weekly series, Deadbeat Illinois, where GateHouse Illinois newspapers examine the effect of the state of Illinois' late payments on businesses, organizations and individuals.
    GALESBURG — The state owes nearly $5 million in payments to a juvenile detention center in Galesburg that serves 16 west-central Illinois counties. Some of the debt is from as far back as 2002.
    As of Jan. 18, the state owed $4,862,000 to the Mary Davis Home, which is operated by Knox County. More than $2 million is from between 2002 and 2005, and with the size of the state’s unpaid bills, it is unlikely the home will ever receive that money.
    “I can’t worry about that money,” Mary Davis Home superintendent Rod Cleair said. “If we haven’t seen it now, why would we? They owe that to everyone else, too.”
    The state’s budget woes and backlog of $9 billion in bill payments has affected nearly every municipal entity in Knox and every other county in Illinois. To make up for the annual shortfalls, the home has cut staff and some services, and the county has had to shuffle funds from other entities to cover the detention center. Eight employees have been let go, and new hires for open positions are few.
    Underage residents used to be bused to doctors’ appointments and court appearances in other counties all hours of the day. Now, the transportation service is restricted to morning and early afternoon hours. The responsibility of transporting kids during off hours falls to the county sheriffs who have teens in the center.
    “Other court services are getting cut like us,” Cleair said. “It has hurt us as far as residents we receive. If we don’t take these kids, they’ll be out in the community.”
    Knox County has tried to ease the financial crunch by transferring other funds to the home. Treasurer Robin Davis said in 2012, $60,000 was given to the home from the public safety fund, and $268,390 was transferred from the contingency fund. Still, the home continues to run a deficit.
    “The county has been great,” Cleair said. “They understand we are a value to them and the community.”
    Other funds, however, have become scarce as more local entities struggle to balance their budgets.
    “The detention home here struggles because of it,” Cleair said. “But so do the nursing homes, the schools. We’re all in this together.”
    Look for Deadbeat Illinois stories every Monday. To read the full series like the Deadbeat Illinois page on Facebook.
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