Police substation in Eurma Hayes Community Center causes controversy

Volunteer+Janet+Lilly%2C+75%2C+sits+for+a+portrait+Tuesday%2C+February+2+at+the+Eurma+Hayes+Center+in+Carbondale%2C+Illinois.+Lilly+said+the+substation+will+be+a+good+addition+to+the+Eurma+Hayes+Center.+%E2%80%9CPeople+like+to+feel+secure+and+when+you+feel+secure+you%27ll+come.+When+you+feel+insecure+by+whatever+it+is+causing+that+fear+you%27re+not+going+to+come+in+fear+of+but+I+feel+the+substation+will+provide+some+sort+of+security%2C%E2%80%9D+she+said.

Madison Taylor | the.madisontaylor

Volunteer Janet Lilly, 75, sits for a portrait Tuesday, February 2 at the Eurma Hayes Center in Carbondale, Illinois. Lilly said the substation will be a good addition to the Eurma Hayes Center. “People like to feel secure and when you feel secure you’ll come. When you feel insecure by whatever it is causing that fear you’re not going to come in fear of but I feel the substation will provide some sort of security,” she said.

By Janae Mosby, Staff Reporter

The Eurma Hayes center has been in the Carbondale community since the 1970s and there has recently been some controversy surrounding the announcement that a police substation will be housed there. 

Carbondale Police Department’s Interim Chief, Stan Reno,  announced they were provided a small space in the Center “so both sworn and civilian department employees could further enhance services to Carbondale community members.”

Some people of the community do not support the inclusion of the substation inside of the Center.

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“I think it would defeat the purpose of a community center where people will feel comfortable coming there,” leader of the Southern Illinois Unity Coalition Nancy Maxwell said.

Maxwell said if they have a community center where kids can go and there are programs for the community that will take down some of the violence.

Carbondale Spring has started a petition to the Carbondale City council, the Jackson County State’s Attorney and the Carbondale Police Department.

“There are some groups that are writing a letter and they have a petition circulating letting their concerns be known about [how] they don’t believe a substation will help the community and it may be more of a hindrance,” Maxwell said.

As of Monday evening, 942 people signed this petition.

(See more: Carbondale Spring petition )

“While it is true that the city of Carbondale has a problem with violent crime and shootings, we also know true violence prevention does not come from increased policing and interaction with the criminal justice system,” the Carbondale Spring petition said.

The Center has been an important part of the Carbondale community, it provided resources for the community like a business center and a youth center. 

“It has had a tremendous positive impact on the community, when it was implemented it did so much for people. It had thriving businesses and a youth center, it was really a game changer for the north east side in a most positive way,” director of the Eurma Hayes board, Bob Wills said.

The center was closed in March of last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it remains closed.

“When a building is sitting idle for that long you get a lot of issues, so we’ve been cleaning and painting and tearing up carpeting and trying to get the center back so the community will have full use of it,” Wills said.

Wills became director of the Eurma Hayes board in August 2020 and he has been working on renovations to improve the Center.

In October of 2020 Will asked the City to be a part of the Center’s renovations and he offered a work space to the Carbondale Police Department.

“I requested them to come and I think it serves as a real way of saying let’s try to fix this and not just leave it as is,” Wills said.

Wills said he thinks the substation is a good thing and it is really more of a resource center. It goes along with the theme of the community center.

“It’s a very small space in the center and the idea is to become a healing portion of the community,” Wills said.

Maxwell said she would like to see the Eurma Hayes board, the City and some community leaders sit down and have a meeting to discuss the substation.

“The overall goal is to maybe a compromise that could be a community officer or a resource officer who is a civilian and doesn’t carry a gun and he could build a relationship with the community,” Maxwell said.

Wills said the board has been meeting to discuss the positives and negatives of the substation.

“Our board went into a lot of detail about it, what’s the negative and what’s the positive. The positive is you start to try to mend and make everything better,” Wills said.

The Carbondale Police Department and Carbondale City Manager Gary Williams released a statement saying:

“The City of Carbondale and the Carbondale Police Department support the rehabilitation work taking place at the Eurma C. Hayes Community Center.  The City recognizes the historical importance of this building and the potential community services it can offer,”

The goal for the substation is for department employees to be available to help educate the public on services provided by the City and the Police Department.

“It’s also important to know that this plan is conceptual at this point and there is no scheduled start or completion date to open a community resources office at the Center,” 

   Staff reporter Janae Mosby can be reached at jmosby@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @mosbyj.

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