Catfish Days Festival Set in Olmsted

Olmsted plans to host its 8th Annual Olmsted Catfish Days Festival on Saturday, Sept. 13.

This event will begin on Front Street Saturday morning with a flea market and yard sale.

The festival will also include food vendors, music, a parade, inflatable amusements and Me and MA’s PR Express Train Rides.

Cost for flea market, yard sale and game booth space is free. The food vendor space is $25 and includsd an electrical hookup.

Information booths, arm bands for the train ride are also free.

Catfish or BBQ chicken will be served beginning at 11 a.m. until the none is left or the end of the festival at city hall.

The menu will also include slaw, potato salad, baked beans, hushpuppies, drink and dessert.

Dinners are $10 for adults and kids ages 8 and under  are $5.

Other food venders will be selling, BBQ ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, Italian beef, bratwurst, chili dogs, nachos, tacos in a bag and shake-ups.

The parade will begin at 3:30 p.m. at the Lutheran Church with area fire departments, floats and bands.

Call David 618-559-1443, for more information.

 Catfish Days will also feature entertainment and music from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. by Cassie Sharp and Company.

Fireworks begin at 8 p.m.

The Olmsted Historical Society’s old train depot will be open, and the Public Library will host its annual book sale.

Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.

All proceeds from the events will go to the Olmsted Parks Department, for park improvements. For general information, call 618-742-6487 or e-mail olmill@earthlink.net

Mistrial in Hughes murder trial

In a bizarre day at the Alexander County Courthouse on Friday, the murder trial against Chauncey Hughes, Jr. ended in a mistrial. Hughes is accused of killing his wife, Heather Davis, in November of last year at their home in Cairo.

Judge Mark Clarke declared a mistrial after the jury put a battery in a cell phone entered as evidence and read text messages. The contents of the phone had not been entered into evidence and could not be reviewed during jury proceedings.

This was after several notes were passed between Clarke and the jury about a particular juror that would not participate in the proceedings and announced that she did not believe either side. She didn’t believe that Hughes shot Davis, which the defense conceded but contended it was an accident.

Clarke called the jury back into court several times to reiterate the instructions.

There were also notes passed between Clarke and the jury about the cell phone. The first asked if it would be improper to put the battery in the cell phone.

“It would be wrong of you to perform experiments or to attempt investigations,” Clarke wrote back.

The jury returned another note about the phone, after another one complaining about the juror.

“Judge Clarke, I think you misunderstood us,” the note read. “I will reword the letter. We did put the battery in the phone.”

After asking for clarification and receiving a note back that added more confusion.

“Since grade school, I have found passing notes to be an inefficient way to communicate,” Clarke said before deciding to call each juror into the courtroom individually to question them.

After a juror told Clarke that they saw a message on the phone about ‘disrespect,’ Zach Gowin, the Public Defender for Hughes, asked for a mistrial which Clarke granted.

“In defense of the jury,” Clarke said. “They were not instructed not to do it (turn on that phone).”

Selecting and maintaining a jury was somewhat difficult given the small population base of Alexander County and the pre-trial publicity of the shooting. Many people knew Heather as the manager of a restaurant in Cairo.

During jury selection on Tuesday, one juror was dismissed after insinuating that Hughes should be lynched, which did not sit well with Clarke. Other jurors were dismissed because they were friends or family with the Davis’s.

During the short trial, which began on Wednesday and went to the jury on Friday morning, one juror was dismissed when he discovered that he lived next door to the father of Davis several years ago.

One juror was questioned after he notified the court that a prospective employer told him that she had been assaulted by the defendant. He told the court that he could remain objective and was not removed.

Four members of the jury had lunch at a local restaurant in Cairo on Thursday that had a slide show on an electronic picture frame with some photos of Davis, including one that was entered as evidence. They were asked if they had noticed the slide show and one said he had noticed the frame but did not recognize anybody in any of the photos. Clarke decided that the photo on the frame would not be delivered to the jury during deliberations and directed the jury to not have lunch at that restaurant for the remainder of the trial.

On Friday, after the case was in deliberations, a second juror was dismissed for reasons unrelated with the trial which required the final alternate to be seated.

Alexander County Jeff Farris was visibly frustrated when he left the courtroom.

No date has been set for a new trial, which will require a new jury, and Hughes remains jailed at the Tri-County Detention Center in Ullin.

Bosecker returns as Cairo Police Chief

Chief of Police John Bosecker
Chief of Police John Bosecker

John Bosecker was appointed as Chief of Police for the city of Cairo last week.
Bosecker returns to the post he held for 16 months about six years ago.
“I’ve learned a lot since I was here last,” said Bosecker.
“My main goal, right now, is community policing and police presence. We want to teach the public that we are there for them and trying to make it a safer place. Police presence is a deterrent and we can learn from the residents how we can better serve them – how Cairo can better serve them.”
Bosecker started police work in 1999 and has been his career ever since.
He also has over 10 years in the National Guard and Army Reserve, starting in artillery in the Guard and moving to Military Police in the Reserves.
According to Bosecker, the public can expect the policies and personnel to remain mostly unchanged.
“The policies are pretty good,” he said. “It’s enforcement. Expect to definitely see increased enforcement and special duties assigned to officers.”
“The public expects protection and that is what we are going to give them.”

Illinois Winter Fourth Coldest on Record

The average statewide temperature for the three core winter months of December, January, and February was 20.8 degrees.

It was 8.2 degrees below average and the fourth coldest December through February period on record, according to Illinois state climatologist Jim Angel at the Illinois State Water Survey at University of Illinois in Champaign.

This winter was in a three-way tie with 1917-1918 and 1976-1977.

The coldest winter was 1977-1978, with a statewide average temperature of 19.6 degrees. The winter of 1978-1979 was in second place at 19.9 degrees.

The Illinois statewide temperature for February was 18.7 degrees, or 12.1 degrees below the long-term average.  It was the seventh coldest February on record.

The snowfall for February was above average across the state.

The total snowfall ranged from 4 inches in far Southern Illinois to 15 to 20 inches in north-central Illinois.

Snowfall departures from the average ranged from 1 to 5 inches south of Interstate 70 and between 10 and 18 inches between Interstates 70 and 80.

The statewide precipitation for February was 2.28 inches, which is 0.17 inches above average.

Precipitation includes both rain events along with the water content of any snowfall.

The result in February was that the above-average snowfall did not translate to above-average precipitation because several of those snowfall events occurred in colder conditions when the snow density was lower, since the snow was fluffier.

Snowfall this winter so far has been above average across the state.

Snowfall totals ranged from 10 inches in the southernmost counties of the state to over 60 inches in the northeast.

Some of the largest snowfall totals this entire winter were in the Chicago area and included Lincolnwood with 79.8 inches and Oak Park with 78.6 inches.

“This winter was comparable to the winters in the late 1970s in terms of the cold weather and snow,” Angel said.

Votes Trickle in for 2014 Illinois Primary Election

Primary elections were held across the state of Illinois on Tuesday, March 18.  The election gave voters the chance to influence who will represent them at the state and local levels.

Early  and absentee voting began in late-February and March for Alexander and Pulaski Counties and was wrapped up over the weekend. Alexander  County Clerk and Election Authority Frances Lee opened her office on Saturday to accomodate the last of early voting in the county.

Af 11:00 a.m. on Saturday only five voters had come through the office.  The low numbers correlated with state-wide predictions of a low voter turnout.

“It’s been very quiet so far this election,” said Lee. “I think a lot of people have stopped caring.  John Q. Public is sick of the back-and-forth fighting between the different sides.”

Lee also cited the small amount of campaign advertising in the area as a factor in the low turnout.

“Usually there are signs and advertisements everywhere,” said Lee.  “That’s how people know that there’s an election approaching.  There isn’t much of that around this year.”

Monday afternoon saw the distribution of election equipment.  Election judges for the county picked up their precinct’s ballots and M100 voting systems.  The judges are responsible for the delivery as well as the return of the equipment after the election.

As the voting machines began leaving the County Clerk’s office late Monday afternoon, workers and election judges milled about and conversed with eachother.

“I’m starting to get all nerved up,” said Ellen Henderson-Bigham, a candidate for Alexander County Clerk.

The most closely watched race in this year’s primary election is that for representation in the election for Governor of Illinois.

With five candidates on the ballot in Alexander County, three being Republican, the possibility for change throughout the state is a possibility.

Election judge Vernon Stubblefield had only nine voters come through his precinct at the Alexander County Courthouse by 2 p.m. The slow trickle of voters left judges time to converse and offer ther opinions on the primary election.

“You would think that because of the number of Republican candidates on the ballot there would be more people from the party out voting,” said Vernon.

The Cairo Airport had only 14 voters come through the precinct by 2:30 in the afternoon.

“Some people would sure help the time go by quicker,” said Curtis Jones, and election judge at the Cache precinct.

As polling wound down, workers in the Alexander County Clerk’s office began counting and processing absentee ballots.  The process involves comparing records and signatures on previously submitted documents to weed out anyone attempting to vote more than once. Approximately 165 absentee and early ballots were processed and then added to the final tally by the County Clerk’s staff.

By 8:30 p.m. ten of the eleven precincts had reported back with a total eligible turnout of 14.5 percent.  Thebes, which struggled with tabulation issues,  reported at 9:05 p.m.

A closely watched aspect of the election was the race for Illinois Senate representation. Senator Durbin was opposed by Republicans Jim Oberweis and Doug Traux.  Strong opposition to Democrats has been major local news in recent months.

Senator Durbin ran unopposed on the Democratic ticket for position of senator and  garnered a majority of votes in Alexander  and Pulaski Counties.

Oberweis was victorious on the Republican side of the Senate race with 64 percent of the vote in Alexander County.

Tio Hardiman upset Pat Quinn for nomination to represent the Democratic Party for Illinois Governor in both Alexander and Pulaski Counties.

The complete tabulation revealed that 19.36 percent of eligible voters in Alexander County voted, just shy of the predicted 20 percent. In Pulaski County 18.64 percent of eligible voters took a trip to the polls.

1,082 total votes were cast in Alexander County and 864 in Pulaski County.

(See below for a full breakdown of votes)
Alexander County Treasurer Jerry Smith posts election results outside County Clerk's office in the Alexander County Courthouse Tuesday evening. -- George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen
Alexander County Treasurer Jerry Smith posts election results outside County Clerk’s office in the Alexander County Courthouse Tuesday evening. — George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen
Cuirtis Jones, an election judge at Alexander County’s Cache precinct, housed at the Cairo Airport, laments to a friend about the low number of voters he has seen. Jones’ precinct had only 14 voters by early Monday afternoon. “The clock just isn’t moving,” Jones said. Low turnout was expected throughout the region with some speculating only 20 percent of eligible voters taking advantage of the opportunity to influence change in the forthcoming state elections. -- George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen
Cuirtis Jones, an election judge at Alexander County’s Cache precinct, housed at the Cairo Airport, laments to a friend about the low number of voters he has seen. Jones’ precinct had only 14 voters by early Monday afternoon.
“The clock just isn’t moving,” Jones said.
Low turnout was expected throughout the region with some speculating only 20 percent of eligible voters taking advantage of the opportunity to influence change in the forthcoming state elections. — George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen
Among the stacks of ballots and voting equipment, Alexander County Clerk Frances Lee works in the back of her office with Wytiona Orr on Monday to prepare the precincts throughout Alexander County for the March 18 primary election.  “I’m going to miss doing this,” said Lee. “It can be fun if you enjoy working with people.” Low voter turnout was experienced throughout Illinois.  Alexander and Pulaski Counties were no exception with many speculating that only around twenty percent of all eligible voters would participate. “People don’t really seem to care until it’s the main election,” said Lee. -- George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen
Among the stacks of ballots and voting equipment, Alexander County Clerk Frances Lee works in the back of her office with Wytiona Orr on Monday to prepare the precincts throughout Alexander County for the March 18 primary election.
“I’m going to miss doing this,” said Lee. “It can be fun if you enjoy working with people.”
Low voter turnout was experienced throughout Illinois. Alexander and Pulaski Counties were no exception with many speculating that only around twenty percent of all eligible voters would participate.
“People don’t really seem to care until it’s the main election,” said Lee. — George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen
Pulaski County Unofficial Results
Pulaski County Unofficial Results
Alexander County Unofficial Results
Alexander County Unofficial Results

George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen

 

 

Cairo City Council Meeting: March 13, 2014

The Cairo City Council met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday. After approving the agenda Mayor Tyrone Coleman commended the street department, Cairo Police and Fire Department, and other personnel on the honoring of former council member Linda Jackson and her family.

Coleman stated that at the time one application for an animal control volunteer has been recieved by the city. The Council also discussed the possibility of having a waiver drawn up by the city attorney to protect Cairo from insurance claims.

Coleman also thanked Cairo Public Utility for their ongoing work installing new street lights throughout town.

“I have to thank the workers and the company for making this a reality,” said Coleman.  “We’ve been talking about this project for around two years now and now that the project is moving along its some really nice progress.”

The City Council was also informed of a fundraiser being held by the Pyramid Chess Club on Friday, March 14, 2102 Poplar Street in Cairo.  The chess club is offering a chicken dinner as a means to pay for upcoming travel to tournaments.

During public comments Larry Klein of Cairo Public Utility asked about any ongoing developments on the company’s plot of land on the west side of Cairo.

“We gave the city $57,000 for a new fire truck  18 months ago and we haven’t really heard of anything since,” said Klein.

The minutes of the February 25 meeting were approved as well as the payroll ending March 3, 2014 and the bill list through February 21, 2014.

A motion to approve Ordinance number 2014-628, amending the Cairo City Code and moving the sewer department from the Commissioner of Demolitions, Sewer and Economic Development to the Commissioner of Streets, Public Improvements, Pumps, and Levees was passed.

The members of the council also voted to keep the Cairo Fire Department open at least five years into the future.  Thomas Simpson and Richard Pitcher voted against the measure.

“We’re having problems staying afloat as it is,” said Simpson. “I don’t know how we can make a decision like that without the right information on hand.”

A motion to enter in to executive session was then approved to talk about real estate and contracts.

Area Districts Cope With Missed School Days

Harsh winter conditions have forced schools in Alexander and Pulaski Counties to close for multiple days this year.  While snow days are generally allotted to each school, persistent extreme weather has caused many districts to surpass their original rations.

Currently, the Cairo School District has missed 11 days of school due to severe weather. The District quickly surpassed the five allotted days however, have been granted forgiveness by the State of Illinois for four of the days so far.

Superintendant Angie Evers explained that because Illinois as a whole has experience a rough winter, Act of God days, which are applied for by the district as a means of forgiveness, are being approved more liberally than usual.

“I’m quite certain that we’ll be granted the other days which are pending at this time,” said Evers. “We were scheduled to have Monday off for Casmir Pulaski so that didn’t effect us.”

The biggest concern for the school is the effects on I-SAT testing that is scheduled to begin this week.  With the week before the tests shortened, preparation and scheduled curriculum are being squeezed into fewer hours.

“It’s a delicate balancing act,” said Evers.  “I desperately want children in the classrooms but you have to consider keeping people safe when they’re trying to get to school. Mother Nature has really been working against us.”

At this time the last day of school for the district is planned for June 4.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed,” said Evers.

Pulaski County schools are in much of the same situation.  Weather caused closures throughout the week for Meridian schools.

Elementary principal Brent Boren stated that at time of printing the district has been out of school 18 days due to winter weather.

“We’ve lost almost a full month of school,” said Boren.  “It’s been detrimental in respect to the time we’ve had to prepare for state testing.”

Boren also spoke of the toll missed school days take on student’s retention and comprehension.

“When children miss school it takes them out of the rhythm of education and can often break any momentum they have going for them,” said Boren.

A major factor in determining whether schools remain in service are the road conditions.  Administration agreed that  student’s safety is the number one priority when it comes to deciding whether school will close.

“It’s most important to keep the children safe,” said Boren

Temperatures have began to rise across the region, giving many hope that the end of the brutal winter Illinois has experienced is in sight.

“We’re just going to keep plugging along and sooner or later it’s going to improve,” said Boren.

Alicia Rames and Erica McDowell enjoy playing in the snow in Cairo on Thursday. Severe weather in the area has prompted districts to apply for pardons from the state of Illinois. -- George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen
Alicia Rames and Erica McDowell enjoy playing in the snow in Cairo on Thursday. Severe weather in the area has prompted districts to apply for pardons from the state of Illinois. — George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen

George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen

County Clerk Kicks Off Alexander Co. Primary

On February 27th County Clerk Frances Lee held the public testing of automatic tabulating equipment in her office at Alexander County Courthouse.

The testing of equipment was run by Deb Oldham of Election Management Associates and saw that the precincts of Cairo #1, Thebes, and Tamms were in accurate working order.

Spread about the back room of the County Clerk office were several Automark Systems,  ready to be placed at each precinct in the county.  The systems are computerized and required by the Attorney General to assist handicapped voters.

The primary election in Alexander County began early voting on Monday, March 3.  Registered voters are able to vote for their choices after signing an affidavit with the County Clerk’s office and having their eligibility verified.

The County Clerk’s office will be open on Saturday, March 15 to service early voters.

“I’m not usually open on Saturdays but we need to give people a chance to get their voting taken care of if they’ll be absent on election day,” said Lee.

The primary election gives area voters the opportunity to influence the county and state through their choices of candidates. This influence can often mean the difference in state and federal policies that have long-standing effects on the economy and population.

Alexander County residents are encouraged to cast their vote in the general primary election on March 18 at one of the 11 polling locations in the county.

Deb Oldham, with Election Management Associates, conducts accuracy testing on Alexander County ballot tabulating systems. The public test was held at Alexander County  Clerk’s office on Thursday afternoon. -- George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen
Deb Oldham, with Election Management Associates, conducts accuracy testing on Alexander County ballot tabulating systems. The public test was held at Alexander County Clerk’s office on Thursday afternoon. — George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen

George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen

Severe Weather Strikes Alexander County

On March 2 National Severe Weather Week kicked off throughout the country. The last week brought heavy precipitation to the lower half of Illinois which coincides with America’s acknowledgement of the forces of nature.

The week highlights the importance of being prepared during natural disasters such as tornados, floods, thunderstorms, and lightning.

Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the week is used to inform people of the precautions they can take to remain safe and comfortable when severe weather strikes.  A heavy emphasis is placed on being prepared for the unexpected and ensuring the proper necessities to survivie are on hand.

FEMA recommends organizing a basic disaster supply kit including provisions that may not be readily available during a time of crisis.  Some suggested items to include are batteries, a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water, a first-aid kit, and a battery-powered or hand-crank radio.

The importance of having an emergency plan in place is also stressed as part of National Severe Weather Week. Because communication can often be difficult after or during severe weather it is important for all members of a family to know exactly know how to get to a safe location. Knowing the emergency plans for your family’s schools and workplaces is an important asset.

As the months progress many forget about the possibility of snow and ice storms.  Although many see March as the beginning of spring weather, substantial winter precipitation has been recorded into the month of April.

Also, when temperatures do rise, the thaw that ensues brings the risk of flooding throughout the Ohio River Valley and Southern Illinois.  Flooding has been a major concern for Cairo in the past, most memorably in 2011 when severe flooding prompted the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to dynamite a section of levee to subside flooding.

One problem that is experienced by drivers throughout the region is road degredation. The fluxtuation of temperatures causes roads to shrink and swell, opening potholes capable of ruining rims and tires.

Alexander County Highway Engineer Jeff Denny deals with the ever evolving status of the roads throughout the county on a daily basis.

Through the use of salt and cinders the county has dealt with the winter road issues on a tight budget.

“We’ve had to use our resources sparingly but , we’re going to make it,” said Denny.

When asked about pothole issues throughout the area Denny stated that problems have been more prevalent than usual however, are being dealt with on a daily basis.

Southern Illinois saw severe winter weather touch the region over the weekend, prompting many to retrieve shovels and ice scrapers which were hoped to be forgotten until the next winter. Although precipitation was heavy rising temperatures cause much of the standing snow to quickly melt and turn to standing ground water.

Crews throughout Alexander and Pulaski Counties worked Monday and Tuesday to make roads passable for area residents.

 George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen