THOMSON, Ill. — They’ll believe it when they see it.

Many Thomson residents watched Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s state budget proposal with baited breath to hear what they’ve been hoping to hear for nearly five years, that the Thomson Correctional Center would be opening.

But Blagojevich didn’t mention allocating $7 million for the partial opening of the facility that would include 75 guards and 200 minimum security prisoners during his speech at noon Wednesday.

That left some Thomson residents skeptical.

Sue Wheetley, owner of the Work Release Bar and Grill, watched the budget address and listened carefully for Blagojevich to say those magic words.

“I never heard him say it,” Wheetley said. Wheetley talked to her brother who read the budget proposal online and said he saw the money allocated for the prison, but she was disappointed the governor didn’t specifically mention the prison during the address.

“We’ve heard it all before,” said Wheetley. “It’s sad to see that much money sitting out there being wasted.”

“We hope it’s going to open,” Atherton Service Manager Donna Opheim said. She explained it’s been hard on Thomson residents to keep that hope alive over the five years the prison has been complete, yet still empty.

“We’ll believe it when we see the bus go by with the first 50 prisoners going in,” Opheim said. She thinks it may be election-year rhetoric in line with the false promises the village has heard for a long time.

“We’ve been burned so many times,” said Opheim. She noted many business owners in Thomson have been hurt financially because they counted on the prison opening years ago.

“Economically, it’s just got to be overwhelming. Almost everyone here put money into their business, just to see the prison sit empty,” Opheim said.

Other residents of Thomson were even less enthusiastic.

“He still hasn’t opened the main prison,” said Dian French-Rittmer, owner of Dian’s Original Grooming.

She pointed out the prison consists of two separate parts, the maximum-security cellhouses and a 200-bed minimum-security unit.

“What we can get is great, but we’ve been waiting five years. There’s not a lot of confidence until we see it open. Wait and see, that’s all we can do.”

Many Thomson residents wouldn’t even talk about the issue, saying it is a sore subject and dismissing the promise like the ones before.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said BP employee Stephanie Keech. “It’s kind of dumb to build it and not use it, but it’s a start.”

Some people actually were encouraged about the facility opening when they heard Blagojevich was allocating $7 million.

“I think it’s great. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet either. It won’t until we see action over there,” said Erin Wiebenga, owner of Hair For You. “I’ve been for it since day one. This town needs something and this is going to help.”

Former Thomson resident Lois Starr echoed that statement, saying, “I’m happy about it. People out there need jobs and this is going to offer it.”

Opheim said if or when it happens, she won’t be crediting the governor for opening the prison. She’ll be thanking local elected officials for pushing the plan, including former Sen. Denny Jacobs, D-East Moline, State Rep. Mike Boland, D-East Moline, and Sen. Todd Sieben, R-Geneseo.

“If anybody’s been pushing it, it’s been our local congressmen. If these guys hadn’t been pushing it, it would have been a moot issue,” Opheim said. “I was one who didn’t want the prison here, and I still don’t want it here. But the prison is here, so now let’s benefit from it.”