CAT Tracks for August 21, 2009

From the KFVS TV Channel 12 Website...

Link to Original Story

Members of Team Illinois peer through the windows
at the museum at Fort Defiance State Park.

Update on Team Illinois progress in Cairo

By CJ Cassidy

CAIRO, IL (KFVS) - People in Cairo say city and project leaders need to set aside their differences if they ever hope to make any real progress.

You may remember Team Illinois, introduced by then Governor Rod Blagojevich, touted to help boost economically depressed poor cities.

Back in 2003, the Alexander County Board Chairman Andy Clarke stressed the need to work together.

Still, when Team Illinois leaders gathered to showcase their work, things did not quite go as planned.

Folks out to hear about the accomplishments Team Illinois has made over the years, saw some unexpected drama unfold.

Team Illinois leaders had planned on show casing a museum, one of their biggest projects at Fort Defiance State Park Thursday morning.

"Our state partners have come together and through their collaboration put in an excess of a million dollars into redeveloping what was once the Tollhouse Restaurant," said Vernon Stubblefield with Team Illinois.

Still visitors could only see that progress by peering through the tinted windows when project leaders realized they could not get inside.

When asked if he considered it ironic that Team Illinois members put all this money into the building and could not get it open, Stubblefield answered: "Ironic? No ma'am. Unfortunately just another example of times we are in with regards to recession... I'm not in a position to answer that. We requested access to the building, we were told at the onset we would have access to the building."

The City of Cairo owns the building.

"Team Illinois does not communicate with me," said Cairo Mayor Judson Childs. "Haven't communicated with me. In the past when someone was coming might let me know ten minutes in advance going to have a meeting."

However, the mayor says he did know about Thursday's meeting, and keeping everyone out of the museum was not an act of "defiance" on his part.

"That's not the reason the building was not open. The person who had the keys, she's on tour, on a cruise and will be back next week. We did not have a spare set of keys."

Folks in Cairo call it politics as usual. Lonnie Burris had hoped to see inside. Instead he says he'll settle for seeing other projects like revitalizing Cairo's downtown, go according to plan.

"You asked a question. A very relevant question. What do you get? Not the hardcore truth. Until you get to those issues not going to solve anything," he said.

To date, Team Illinois has spent more than $4 million on projects in Cairo and elsewhere in Alexander County.

Mayor Childs says he wants to get involved for Cairo's sake and it would simply take better communication to get his support.

Team Illinois Spokesperson Vernon Stubblefield agrees his meetings have been spur of the moment, and he plans on giving better notice in the future.