- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

CORDOVA, Ill. (AP) - At Mr. Blue’s BBQ, the talk around the lunch table on Thursday zeroed in on Exelon’s announcement that it will close the nuclear power plant that has been in the backyard of this Mississippi River town of 750 people for more than 40 years.

Mr. Blue’s customers say the impact will be catastrophic.

“It’s going to hurt, big time,” said Bill Genung, who grabbed lunch with his wife, Penny. They have a farm right outside of town.

“They’ve been a good neighbor,” said Penny Genung, a local volunteer firefighter.

Their son worked as a security guard at the plant out of high school. The facility employs about 800 people.

Rod Wolter of Edwardsville, Illinois, who stopped in Mr. Blue’s for lunch, thinks nuclear energy ought to be subsidized like green energy.

“I have a problem shutting that down while the government subsidizes all those windmills,” Wolter said.

Behind the counter, Mr. Blue’s owner, Shawn Sivels, was serving up the daily special, barbecue beef sandwiches. He said he opened his restaurant on Illinois 84 four months ago, hoping to attract customers from the plant. Now, Exelon employees make up half of his business.

“This town will turn into a ghost town,” Sivels said of the plant’s closure. “What are the two most popular things here? The nuke plant and drag racing, and both are going to be gone.”

He referred to the announcement earlier this year that after a 61-year run at the Cordova International Raceway, the World Series of Drag Racing will be moving to Memphis for this summer.

Illinois lawmakers failed to pass an incentive package this week to save both the Cordova plant and Exelon’s facility in Clinton, Illinois. Exelon responded Thursday with the announcement that it plans to close the two plants.

“It will be devastating to this community and the Quad-Cities as a whole if the plant closes,” Steve Francisko of Cordova said while filling up his vehicle at Shell Express Lane on Illinois 84 at the entrance to town.

Inside the convenience store, manager Julie Ray was shaking her head about the consequences she foresees.

“I think the impact on Cordova and all the businesses on Route 84 will be catastrophic,” Ray said. “Just think of the tax base and the money Erie schools get. It will be terrible when they don’t get that.”

Outside the Cordova Public Library, dozens stood in line at an ice cream truck following the library’s annual Paint the Road event.

Jade Crisp was in line with her family and said she moved to the community because of the schools.

“The plant brings jobs and revenue,” Crisp said. “It is disappointing to see the government cannot get it together.”

Cordova Trustee John Haan, also waiting to get ice cream with his daughter, Gracie, 3, said he is bracing for the loss in tax revenue.

“The Erie school system, the parks, the Cordova library, the fire department - we wouldn’t have any of this without the plant,” Haan said. “It provides the largest tax base in Rock Island County.”

Haan also thought the incentive issue was unfair.

“Given the energy credits to wind, I think it should be fair across the board,” Haan said. “You can’t subsidize the one and not the other.”

Sonya Patterson said her father began working at the plant when he was 18 and now, at 52, is about to retire.

“He’s close to retirement, but I feel bad for all the other families with young parents who will lose their jobs,” Patterson said.

Tammy Lockaby of Port Byron said her cousin works at the plant and has described the mood as “very anxious” and “on edge.”

“I think it’s really sad,” Lockaby said. “Too many people will lose their jobs and property values will go down.”

Library director Sue Hebel lamented the future without the nuclear plant.

“Exelon is almost 90 percent of my budget,” Hebel said. “If they close and we lose Exelon, it’s huge for the library. Really, it’s huge for Rock Island County and Scott County. It would be devastating for all the workers who live here.”

Hebel said the 14th annual Paint the Road day Thursday afternoon attracted 170 people. She said that without the nuclear plant, that program and many others will be gone because of the loss of tax revenue.

The library board has been meeting about the future.

“We do not want to raise taxes,” Hebel said. “We will have to cut some programs. We will not be able to do as much for this community as we do now.”

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Source: Quad City Times, https://bit.ly/20XeOgj

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Information from: Quad-City Times, https://www.qctimes.com


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