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Lincoln Developmental Center 072809
The Lincoln Developmental Center, closed since 2002, is being marketed as a possible site for warehouses or office space, as well as a residential treatment center for youth programs or veterans with Alzheimer's disease. (Pantagraph file photo/STEVE SMEDLEY)

SPRINGFIELD -- This fall, for the first time in over a 130 years, a once-bustling state facility in Central Illinois will be completely vacant.

Lincoln Developmental Center, which had been Logan County's largest employer for decades, will have no permanent workers on site beginning Sept. 30.

The three remaining workers are being let go as part of Gov. Pat Quinn's budget cuts, raising questions about security and maintenance of the grounds.

"Once you stop maintaining facilities, it costs far more to bring them up to speed," said state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, who represents a part of Logan County. "It just defies imagination."

"We definitely have some concerns," said Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder.

In limbo since 2002

The 103-acre facility has been in limbo since former Gov. George Ryan shuttered the institution in 2002 amid concerns about patient care.

Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich pledged to reopen LDC in some form, but never followed through before he was booted from office. Four new homes for developmentally disabled residents were built on the grounds, but those have never been used.

As part of Quinn's budget cuts, the LDC budget has been slashed from nearly $1 million to less than $300,000.

"The decrease in funding for the Lincoln Developmental Center, which is currently vacant, projects the layoffs of the remaining three staff effective September 30," said Department of Human Services spokeswoman Marielle Sanvilus.

The facility, located on the south side of Lincoln, includes numerous buildings that once housed developmentally disabled residents. There also are kitchens, classroom buildings and work areas.

After it was shuttered by Ryan, the skeleton crew maintained the grounds and kept the power plant operating in order to make sure the buildings weren't damaged by changes in the weather.

It remains unclear who will maintain the buildings and grounds without anyone on site.

"As of now, DHS is still working with the Governor's office to iron out the details. We will have more information once there is a plan in place," Sanvilus said in an e-mail Wednesday.

Snyder said he hasn't gotten any definitive answers from the administration about what happens next.

Quinn has opened the door to selling the property, but those discussions remain in the early stages.

Mitchell said the state should consider relocating workers and programs from rented space in Springfield to the Lincoln site.

Officials also have suggested using the facility as a centralized medical facility for the Department of Human Services or the Department of Corrections. Some believe it could be converted to a center for veterans or Alzheimer's disease patients.

"It could be used for some economic development," Mitchell said. "I've not gotten an answer from the administration."

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