By Jeff Small
Chester, IL (KSDK) - This very serious situation not only affects locals, but also people who travel more than an hour to get to work. Tonight they say they are on edge and say they didn't see this coming.
Chester, Illinois is known as the home of Popeye and the place where 8600 residents enjoy a community where hard work and family go hand in hand.
Now, there's fear many of those trying to provide for their families could be out of work.
"It came as a shock today when I came to work so I had no idea," said Jeff Dancy.
Dancy is one of the nearly 500 workers afraid they could soon be getting pink slips from their workplace, the Chester Mental Health Facility.
The center is filled primarily with criminal defendants who were found not guilty by reason of insanity or mentally unfit to stand trial.
Staff members say they are now dealing with a range of unexpected concerns.
"Taking care of my family, losing my job, how I'm gonna take care of my family and looking for a new job. Retraining and school and things like that and just trying to prepare myself for what could happen in the next six months," said Dancy.
Governor Pat Quinn said the state needs to close seven institutions, including the Chester facility, in order to live within the drastically reduced budget approved by the Illinois legislature.
Some state lawmakers said the governor's actions appear politically motivated.
Workers said regardless of whom is to blame, the effect is the same.
"To be completely honest, everybody is a little worried but trying to stay positive and work together and let the state know we are gonna be there until the end of this thing," said Anthony Hagene.
The mayor of Chester said there really isn't anything he can do to stop the cuts, but plans to meet with the leaders of surrounding communities and start a letter writing campaign to let the governor know just how devastating these cuts will be.