Small Town Rallies To Save Home For The Disabled

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Hundreds from small town Illinois, took on their governor, Monday night.

Governor Patrick Quinn called for the closure Murray Center, a home for the disabled, in the town of about 13,000 people about 60 miles east of St. Louis.

About 200 people gathered  at city hall with their answer for the governor, loud and clear.
'Save Murray Center,' they chanted at passing traffic on Poplar Street, waving their `Save Murray Center` signs.

There were about 100 people outside city hall and almost as many inside the council chambers.

5 days earlier, Quinn announced a budget he said could no longer support a place like Murray Center.

'We must repair this broken system and we must do it now,' Quinn said in his budget speech.

Under his plan, Murray Center would close by November 2013.

Murray Center supporters said it was not part of what was broken in the financially strapped state budget 'system'.

Ed LaPorte, of AFSCME Council #31, which represents the center`s workers, spoke for the crowd to the city council.

'In light of the recommendation made by Governor Quinn to close and dislocate the residents of Murray Center we would also ask for a proclamation from the City Council of Centralia also lending its support to the continuing operations,' he said.

The crowd erupted in applause.

Murray Center has about 275 disabled residents and 550 workers.

Residents` relatives and workers left the center  Monday night with 'Save Murray Center' etched on their car windows.

Vickie Vest was on her nightly 30 minute trip home, after spending the day with her daughter, Mandy, 36,  who has cerebral palsy and has lived at Murray Center for 26 years.
'I  give her a bath.  She has her own room.  We just spend time together the whole day,' Vest said.

She said  if the governor were to tour the place, he`d never favor closing it.

State Senator John O. Jones, a Republican from Mt. Vernon, who represents the Centralia area said the center actually took in about $10 million dollars more than the $41 million it costs the state to operate every year. He said the excess came from federal Medicare reimbursements;  the money went into the state`s general fund.

He said the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, COGFA, would hold a public hearing on the issue in Centralia and tour Murray Center, before making a recommendation on closure to the governor;  all that had to happen before the closure process could move forward.

'We`ll give them a tour of the facility and show them the residents we house there and what their needs are.  I think COGFA will make the recommendation then to the governor`s office that we shouldn`t be closing Murray Center.

'It`s just totally wrong. It`s just so wrong.  He [Quinn] just has no idea what he`d be doing to people`s lives,' Vest said.  'We`re fighting so hard to keep it open.  Hopefully it works.  It`s just their lives.  It`s just their lives !'

Not only did the city council agree to issue a proclamation against the closure, everyone from council members to police officers had already been circulating petitions, collecting signatures in opposition to the closure;  those signatures headed to Quinn`s office.

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