Saturday, August 20, 2005
The Southern Illinois town of Thebes has financial problems. Last spring, an energy company threatened to cut off the town's gas service because of a $57,000 debt. More recently, the IRS seized the village's assets. Thebes was four years behind in paying payroll taxes on its employees.
That debt is being worked out with the IRS, but Thebes' problems go deeper. The village is home to an estimated 450 people but not one business.
The town's new mayor, Anthony Scott Bomar, is trying to do something about Thebes' dilemma. Last weekend the village brought people to town and raised money by holding mud races. It's a start. Bomar's attempts to get something going in Thebes ought to be encouraged.
Thebes has some of the region's most dramatic history. Dred Scott, the slave whose suit for freedom helped bring about the Civil War, is believed to have stayed in the courthouse's dungeon when he was a fugitive. The courthouse was part of the circuit lawyer Abraham Lincoln rode.
Though the 157-year-old courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, it seldom is open to the public. Bomar claims the historical society, which leases the building for $1 a year, is in violation of its lease and he wants control of the building returned to the town.
Thebes probably has the region's best view of and access to the Mississippi River. Instead of broke and dilapidated, it could be a showplace.