Bishop Hill prepares for possible cuts

Mary Davidsaver
Many of the approximately 50 people attending a meeting at the Bishop Hill Steeple Building on July 15 signed a petition asking state lawmakers to keep the Bishop Hill State Historic Site open. Among those signing the paper were 
(from left) Loretta Nordstrom; Nore Larson (mostly hidden); Natalie Anderson; unknown; Cheryl Carney, Henry County Tourism Director; and Sherry Linscott, business owner. Carney and Linscott are members of a newly formed independent committee seeking stoppage of the closure of the state site.

State Rep. Donald Moffitt, 74th District, made a brief appearance before a gathering of concerned citizens in Bishop Hill on July 18. The gathering in the Bishop Hill park was in response to Governor Blagojevich's recent veto of funds for state historic sites, including the one in Bishop Hill.

Moffitt stated that the governor's line item veto of the personnel payroll for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency in Senate Bill 1102 could lead to closures of historic sites. He said that it needs to be overridden.

"State historic sites and tourism are an investment not a cost," Moffitt emphasized. "They are not an expense."

He used an analogy of a farmer who could not get a loan. He still had the farm, but it wasn't developed.

If the Illinois legislature can't override the line item veto, and it doesn't seem likely, there is a chance for supplemental appropriations later in the fall. It will not be easy or automatic, Moffitt said. He also said getting a meeting with the governor was the right thing to do.

When a questioner from the crowd asked who would be the best person to contact, Moffitt's answer was to "lobby all of them."

"We can't appreciate where we are now if we do not remember the ones who came before," Moffitt commented in regard to the Bishop Hill site, which consists of the Bishop Hill Museum, Colony Church, Bjorklund Hotel and the village park.

He encouraged everyone to work together as a community and said that the historic sites will not close immediately. There will be administrative decisions to be made on how best to use the money remaining and union issues to be considered.

After Moffitt left for a commitment at a Relay for Life event in Galesburg, Cheryl Carney, director of Henry County Tourism, spoke before the 33 people assembled.

She said that petitions are out countywide and letters of support are coming in. There is a meeting scheduled with the governor.

When asked about Jordbruksdagarna (Bishop Hill's annual "Ag Days"), set for Sept. 27-28, Carney said that more will be known in the next week. Comments from the audience indicated that the event should be able to go on as planned.

"Everything is as usual until we hear different," Carney stated, adding, "We are still in business here in Bishop Hill. There is more here than the state historic sites. We can still say to people 'Come and enjoy Bishop Hill.' "