- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

CLINTON, Ill. (AP) - No matter where you went Thursday in this DeWitt County city of 7,000 - from Carol Van Rheeden’s chat with friends over coffee on the square downtown to the pews of the First Christian Church of Clinton - the same sore subject was on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

What will become of their community if Exelon follows through on its plans to close the Clinton nuclear power plant next year?

“A man who works at the power plant has already put up a ‘For Sale’ sign in his front yard,” said Van Rheeden, who taught at Clinton Grade School for 26 years. “It’s all just devastating, really.”

As Van Rheeden was walking down the street toward her car, lifelong Clinton resident Joe Alexander stopped her to talk about the news of the day and hand her a flier. It was an announcement for a community prayer gathering that night at First Christian.

The flier featured a photo of the power plant with a scripture reading from Romans 12:12 - “Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.”

Said Alexander: “I’m a pretty optimistic guy, but it’s pretty devastating, for lack of a better word.”

A well-known figure in his hometown, Alexander spent part of Thursday walking the streets, talking with fellow residents about the ramifications the plant’s closing would have.

“I have friends who work at the Clinton nuclear power plant,” Alexander said. “There’s secondary and tertiary ripple effects because it’s going to greatly affect taxing bodies, the local school district, the Richland Community College District, a library district - we’ve got a great library - the DeWitt County government and it just goes on.

“It’s a tough thing for a person to lose a job; it affects families negatively.”

Curtis Fort knows all about that. As a teen growing up here, he remembers when Revere shut down its operation in the late 1990s and moved to Indonesia. Fort’s dad had worked there for nearly two decades.

“It affected the economy here when I was younger,” he said. “This is a much bigger deal, probably tenfold than Revere closing, if not more.”

Fort is president of the Murkin Group, a Clinton debt collection agency that he just opened two months ago. He’s especially interested in how Thursday’s news will affect the local economy. For him, it’s a mixed bag of emotions.

“It may actually help my business, unfortunately, because people are looking for work and I’m looking to continue to grow my business, but not a system that I like to capitalize on, by any means, of another company going under, especially the size and the magnitude of a company like Exelon,” he said.

Who’s to blame for the horrible news? Most folks here had an eye on the state leaders in Springfield.

“I was disappointed that the legislators couldn’t come to the aid of the community because it’s a lot of jobs and supplies a lot of power and I don’t think they understand the effects it’s going to have - not just here but throughout central Illinois,” said Dustin Peterson, a Clinton insurance agent.

“I think it’s going to put a real strain on the community itself, the school district mainly. They get so much revenue from that power plant from the assessed value and I just don’t think there’s very good jobs out there for this community. Unfortunately, the state of Illinois isn’t bringing in those kinds of jobs.”

Alexander worries that the state’s already-negative perception will worsen in light of Thursday’s news, coupled with Mitsubishi’s decision to close its Normal plant, which employed more than 1,200.

“The narrative becomes ‘Illinois is not a great place to do business,’” Alexander said. “Clinton in 45 minutes west of Champaign. We’re just north of Decatur, which has had job loss. Bloomington-Normal lost Mitsubishi. The University of Illinois, the president has had some tough comments about the lack of a budget, so it just kind of plays into a really challenging narrative we have from a number of different perspectives.”


Source: The (Champaign) News-Gazette, https://bit.ly/288AFHh


Information from: The News-Gazette, https://www.news-gazette.com

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