In a press conference Friday afternoon at their administrative office in Teutopolis, Executive Director Andy Kistler of Community Support Systems (CSS) called on the community to contact state lawmakers and demand that they take action to prevent a highway rest area maintenance program, that employs 24 local individuals, from shutting down. CSS is an organization that provides training and job opportunities to developmentally disabled adults. The Rest Area Maintenance program is one of several offered by CSS. Kistler said that they were notified earlier this week that the program could be shut down.
The Rest Area Program employs 24 workers, 17 CSS clients and 7 full time staff members. It receives its budget of $730,000 from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to maintain four facilities located northbound and southbound on I-57 between Effingham and Neoga (Green Creek Rest Area) and I-70 between Effingham and Altamont (National Trail Rest). The facilities require maintenance all year, especially around holidays and heavy travel weekends. According to Kistler, the CSS program has consistently met and exceeded state expectations for the four facilities.
One CSS client has been with the program for 10 years and works in and around the rest areas. With no budget action from Springfield, CSS will have to place him in a different program or he’ll be out of job. Kistler said that “absorbing 17 individuals into our current service delivery system is going to stress things.” He called the action “exploitation.”
If the CSS program is shut down next month, IDOT workers would take over the maintenance of the local rest areas. Danny Tague, a supervisor of the Rest Area Program who has been with CSS for 26 years, said that IDOT employees would not have the same pride in the work as the CSS clients.
Kistler said that CSS has not had to cut other programs due to the budget crisis as of yet.