City leaders in Mount Sterling aren’t shutting off the water to the Western Illinois Correctional Center, but that doesn't mean they're happy about it.
Nor does it mean Mount Sterling can afford it.
City Administrator Vada Yingling said Illinois owes almost $320,000 in past due water bills. A $55,000 check for November 2015’s payment arrived this week.
“They're still seven months behind,” Yingling said.
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Mount Sterling's City Council considered shutting off the water, but Illinois prison officials made it clear the prison would be closed without water.
Yingling said it’s unfair that local governments have to pay for the dysfunction in Springfield.
“With 1,100 residents here in town, each one of those residents carried on their back about $320 of prison water debt alone,” Yingling noted.
But it’s not just debt.
Yingling said Illinois’ unpaid water bill is keeping the city from making improvements.
“We've been wanting to build a new water treatment plant for a number of years,” Yingling said. “It's been a need, badly, for quite a while. That was on the agenda for this year. But we're going to have to push it off.”
It's not just Mount Sterling, and it's not just prisons.
The state of Illinois owes more than $7 billion in unpaid bills to towns, business and schools across the state.