A commission of Springfield residents that will monitor minority contracting and hiring for the high-speed rail construction project through the city met for the first time Thursday.

The Springfield High-Speed Railroad Community Advisory Commission was established in 2015 through a measure sponsored by Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), who realized residents had important questions about the project but were unable to get answers because of its complexity and government bureaucracy.

The advisory commission offers the community a convenient venue for seeking information about the project and its consequences.

“It can be extremely difficult to get answers regarding complex public infrastructure projects,” Manar said.

“Our intention with this panel is not to interfere with the high-speed rail project or slow it down or to debate the merits of 10th Street versus Third Street for rail traffic. The goal is to have accountability and one public body that can handle the public’s questions and has the authority to get the answers.”

The nine-member advisory commission includes local residents who were appointed by each of the four state legislative leaders and the mayor of Springfield. The body is subject to the Illinois Open Meetings Act.

The commissioners include:

• T. Ray McJunkins, co-chairman
• Doris Turner, co-chairwoman
• Paul Moore
• Leroy Jordan
• Rep. Tim Butler
• Gail Simpson
• Brian McFadden

“This is a good way to bring state, federal and local government stakeholders to the table to ensure the hiring is done correctly and to get answers to legitimate questions,” Manar said.

The advisory commission set its meetings for 2017:

• Monday, March 6
• Monday, June 5
• Monday, Sept. 11
• Monday, Dec. 4

All meetings will take place at 5:30 p.m. in Room 409 of the Capitol.

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