Cairo Looks to Humane Society for Help With Strays

Members of the community met on Thursday at City Hall in Cairo to discuss possible avenues of dealing with the prevalent stray dog problem in the city.  The issue has been a source of debate for several months on exactly how to handle the problem as well as whether the responsibility falls on Alexander County or the City of Cairo.

Cairo Mayor Tyrone Coleman made the city council aware that he has been meeting with The Humane Society in Cape Girardeau in regards to finding an affordable way to curb the animal control issue. Coleman stated at a recent city council meeting that the possibility of having a year’s worth of the needed resources paid for by The Humane Society.

At a meeting between Police Chief Snelson, Coleman, and a group of  concerned area residents, a list of needed actions to prepare the city for a new animal control program were presented by Lorrie Hesselrode. The list included repairs to the existing kennels, getting the water turned on at the pens, and a thorough cleaning.

The responsibilities and scheduling of of a prospective were also discussed at length.

“This is something that actually needs to be a full-time position but we just don’t have the money to support it,” said Hesselrode.

The importance of keeping expenses at a minimum was stressed throughout the meeting.  The possibility of starting an animal control network with Tamms is an idea considered by Coleman.

An agreement between the City of Cairo, Illinois, Municipal Corporation and The Humane Society of Southeast Missouri lays out the framework for a program that will house domestic animals picked up by the City Health Officer and assistants.

The agreement states that the Society will house picked up animals for a five-day holding period as required by the State of Missouri.  After the five days have passed, the animals will become the property and responsibility of the state.  If the animals are observed to be suffering from illness or injury beyond recovery at the time of impoundment they will be released to the Society to be humanely euthanized.

Another stipulation of the agreement is that at least one pen will be set aside for suspected rabid animals. Animals suspected of carrying rabies will be held for ten days, as required by law.  If the animal is too vicious to house for the ten days it will be euthanized and sent off for rabies testing.

The term of the agreement will be for one year, running from March 1, 2014 to February 28, 2015.  Cairo will pay the Society a fee of $2,500.00 in advance for the duration of the contract.

Coleman stated that he has also been in touch with individuals from the community who are willing to devote their time and resources to remedy the problem. Citizens in the area have already begun transporting strays to animal shelters on their own.

“It’s a serious matter for the community and a safety issue as well,” said Coleman. “There’s volunteers out there that want to help but including them is a very involved process.”

The city is now accepting applications for individuals who would like to volunteer their time and abilities to the new animal control program.

Alexander County Sheriff Timothy Brown had debated Mayor Coleman in the past on whether it is the county’s responsibility to handle animal control. When asked about the new program Brown remained optimistic.

“It sounds like it could be a pretty good deal,” said Brown.

Linda Swoboda has converted her personal car into an animal transportation vehicle as a means of helping the area combat the stray animal population. The act of volunteering her skills to help animals came as second nature for Swoboda

Using an app on her smart phone, Swoboda coordinates rides for animals between shelters in Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri.

“I can sign up to transport an animal in just a few seconds if I’m available or if it’s convienent for me to help,” said Swoboda.

The use of volunteers is an exciting prospect for Cairo which would keep costs low, however, the qualifications for volunteers will need to be established and reviewed.

“If I can say one thing to the residents of the area it is to be patient,” said Mayor Coleman. “We’re working towards a positive resolution but these things take time.”

Alexander County Sheriff and Cairo resident Tim Brown debates the issue of animal control with Mayor Tyrone Coleman at a community breakfast held at Cairo High School in October 2013 -- George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen
Alexander County Sheriff and Cairo resident Tim Brown debates the issue of animal control with Mayor Tyrone Coleman at a community breakfast held at Cairo High School in October 2013 — George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen

George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen

Council makes quorum

It was a full house June 25 when the Cairo City Council met for the first time in a month.

All councilpersons were in attendance and mayor Tyrone Coleman, who has been out of the office for nearly four weeks for medical reasons, led the meeting. Perhaps the most notable attendee, however, was Linda Jackson who, despite poor health, came in person to the meeting. Jackson usually attends via telephone and therefore cannot be counted towards quorum. Jackson said she decided to attend in person to ensure there was a quorum.

“I was do or die to get down here so we could get some business done,” Jackson said.

There was a lot business to get caught up on. The agenda consisted of items dating back nearly six weeks and first on the list was to decide how much to pay Cairo Emergency Manager Phillip Matthews. The Council voted 4-3 with mayor Coleman breaking the tie, to assign to the position a yearly salary of $2,400 to be paid monthly in $200 increments. Councilpersons Thomas Simspon, Jackson and Richard Pitcher voted against the motion. Jackson voted yes on a previous motion that would have paid a yearly salary of $1,200 and said they city could not afford the position to begin with but because it was created, some compensation should be established.

In a vote of 4-3 with Coleman weighing in, the Council approved a motion to establish of a licensing fee of $25 for video gambling machines registered in the City.  In discussion Philip Hodges said he thought the amount was too low. City clerk Lori Hesselrode noted it was the maximum they were allowed to charge by law. Simpson voted against the motion and Lorenzo Nelson passed. The Council also voted to approve the application form for gaming machines, however for this motion, Purchase voted yes, providing enough votes in favor that the mayor did not have to cast a vote.

The council also approved to release $5,000 for street maintenance near 20th St. and to rezone lots 19 and 20 as well as block 44 from multi-family to business at the request of property owners Jack and John Guetterman.

During his remarks, Coleman requested each department head draft and turn in to him department procedures detailing work to be completed and a chain of command. He said there is a lot of time not being managed and a lot of work not being done. Coleman said he wants accountability for each department and he said the documents he is requesting will help bring this. Coleman said once these are drafted they will be presented to the Council.

Nelson approached the Council about a community member who wishes to make a donation of two basketball hoops to be placed in one of the tennis courts in St. Mary’s Park. It was decided the quality of the donated equipment should be determined before committing to installation.

— Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242

Council misses second consecutive meeting

Kaelei Martin, left, rinses her hands as Nick Kinder works on a panel of the Cairo mural wall June 5. Kinder, who now lives in Va., came back to finish up this portion of the wall and to help get the next section ready for kids to paint.  The Cairo City Council were unable to vote to approve the next submitted design for the mural during their meeting June 11. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Kaelei Martin, left, rinses her hands as Nick Kinder works on a panel of the Cairo mural wall June 5. Kinder, who now lives in Va., came back to finish up this portion of the wall and to help get the next section ready for kids to paint. The Cairo City Council were unable to vote to approve the next submitted design for the mural during their meeting June 11. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

The Cairo City Council cancelled its fourth meeting of the year June 11.

Councilpersons Elbert Purchase and Lorenzo Nelson were not in attendance, leaving city clerk Lori Hesselrode no choice but to call the meeting. Philip Hodges, Richard Pitcher, Thomas Simpson and Linda Jackson were in attendance, however Jackson, who attends electronically, cannot be counted towards quorum.

As the council members dispersed, Hesselrode asked them to reach out to their fellow council members to encourage attendance.

“We need to be here to take care of city business,” she said.

Pitcher agreed.

“There are things within the city that need to be dealt with at this table and the only way to deal with them is to have enough people to have a quorum,” he said.

Pitcher said he consistently hears complaints from citizens who are upset about the attendance issue.

“I hear it all the time,” he said. However, he admitted there is very little he can do other than show up himself. Simpson shared the sentiment and said this is what he plans to do.

“I’m going to keep showing up,” he said.

Purchase, who was seen in front of the Cairo fire station before and after meeting time, declined comment for this report.

Items left undecided on the agenda are what salary the Cairo emergency manager is to receive, the approval of a new sketch for the Cairo mural wall, the establishment of a licensing fee of $25 for video gambling machines and street maintenance. They will have to wait until the council’s next meeting, June 25.

–Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242

Council to set rate for emergency coordinator compensation

The Cairo City Council had a temporary new leader for their meeting May 14.

Because Mayor Tyrone Coleman was absent for medical reasons, councilperson Linda Jackson assumed the role of mayor pro tem.

On the agenda for the meeting was a motion to pay a $600 bill presented by the City’s emergency manager, Phillip Matthews for work done in the month of Feb. However, the Council decided before they could pay Matthews, needed to better define his employment status. After debate, the Council decided they would put it to a vote during their next meeting to treat Matthews as a contractor.

Councilperson Richard Pitcher said he preferred to assign Matthews this title because it would be cheaper on the City because it would not be responsible for his workman’s compensation insurance. Pitcher also added that should he be considered, the council should not pay the bill presented by Matthews, but instead provide him with two months of backpay to compensate him for the work he has done.

The council also decided to add to motions to the agenda for their next meeting to set Matthew’s rate of pay as either $100 or $200 a month.

Councilperson Thomas Simpson said he thinks $100 a month is more than fair considering Alexander County’s emergency coordinator also makes $100 and serves a larger area.

The Council also voted to set the standard mileage reimbursement rate for city employees at 50.5 cents as well as amended an ordinance reducing the number of tires to be stored in the city by an individual or business from 250 to 100.

–Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242

Mayor appoints temporary police chief

Mayor Tyrone Coleman made an executive appointment Feb. 26, which put Bernard Brown in the temporary role of Police Chief in Cairo.

Curing the City Council meeting March 12, Coleman defended his right to make the temporary appointment without a vote by the Council. Coleman cited appellate decision Edwin v. Burke, which declares mayors have the right to make such appointments without council approval.

Coleman said Brown is the type of leader the Cairo Police Department needs.

“That department needs someone aggressive,” Coleman said. Of the officers in the department, Coleman said he feels Brown will lead with military-type discipline.

Coleman said he is unsure how long Brown will be acting Chief. He plans on meeting with the City’s police commissioner to develop a strategy for hiring a new chief.

“We will have to develop and interview process for that position,” Coleman said. He also added he will primarily be looking from within to develop the candidate pool.

“I prefer to hire from within versus bringing somebody in who doesn’t know the community,” Coleman said.

During the meeting the council also voted unanimously with one absence to approve the transfer of the cable franchise from New Wave Communications to Telecommunications Management as well as the sale of four lots of property to Christ Temple Church of God in Christ.

— Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242

Council misses second meeting

The Cairo City Council did not meet for the entire month of January.

For both meetings scheduled in the month of Jan., the Council could not meet quorum, the legal minimum number of members in attendance required to hold a public meeting. Both Elbert Purchase and Thomas Simpson failed to attend either the Jan. 22 meeting or the Jan. 8 meeting.

While there still would have been four members in attendance, Councilwoman Linda Jackson would have participated via telephone, which Lorrie Hesselrode, Cairo City Clerk, said does not allow her to be counted in the quorum.

“Under the open meeting acts law you can only count who is physically there towards your quorum,” Hesselrode said. “She can vote and do everything else … but she cannot be counted toward the quorum.”

Still on the agenda for the Jan. 22 meeting was an item tabled for discussion Dec. 31. The Council is scheduled to vote during its next meeting on the matter of amending the City Code regarding unfit dwellings and condemned demolitions. The amendment would shorten the period of time those served with a condemnation notice have to seek a court appeal as well as closes loopholes that allowed property owners to do bare minimum repairs on a property to remove it from the condemned list. The amendment would also bring the City Code up to date with state statutes.

— Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242

Council approves electronic attendance

The Cairo City Council took a step further into the 21st century during their Nov. 27 meeting.

With a unanimous vote (which included two absences), the council approved an ordinance which allows for council members to vote during meetings using audio or video conference call technologies.

This meeting was the second in which councilperson Linda Jackson, who has been unable to attend several meetings for medical reasons, attended via telephone, however she was only able to discuss council business; she was not able to vote.

When asked about her new ability to vote and at the end of the meeting, Jackson took the opportunity to adjourn.

“I’ve got the power,” she said.

Also during the meeting, Mayor Tyrone Coleman asked the council to take a more active role in managing their departments.

“We just need to tighten up things,” Coleman said.

It was also announced interest has been shown in opening a tire shop in town, however nothing has yet been made concrete. –Isaac  Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242

Cairo Council hears trunk a treat plans

Plans for a “trunk a treat” project for Cairo were heard by the city council at its Tuesday meeting.

Rachel Burns of Cairo explained that those who wish to give treats can bring them in their vehicle to the former Mor-for-Less grocery store Halloween night. Children under age 12 would then be welcome to go car to car to get treats.

She said the project will provide a single, visible location and safer environment for children.

The event is to be held Oct. 31 during Cairo trick or treat hours, 5 to 7 p.m.

Anyone wishing to donate or participate can reach Burns at 734-9516.

In other business during the brief session Councilman Lorenzo Nelson expressed concern about possible damage to some city streets by heavy grain trucks. Signs are to be placed designating concrete streets as truck routes.

— James West Jr. can be reached at (618)734-4242

Council interested in big beer bottle ban

During the Sept. 20 meeting of the Cairo City Council, council member Elbert Purchase suggested a city ordinance banning the sale of beer in bottles larger than 16 oz.

In the members comments portion of the meeting, Purchase said he thought the council should contact the city’s attorney to draft the ordinance. He said it is an idea he has been considering bringing before the council for some months and decided to present it after seeing a rooftop in town covered with what he described as thousands of bottles. Purchase said he believed it would help keep Cairo cleaner. Mayor Tyrone Coleman as well as several council members expressed interest in the idea.

City treasurer Preston Euwing spoke to the council regarding the City’s finances. He said the city has had a bad ten days. Euwing said because of a lawsuit filed in 2010 which recently was decided, the City’s insurance premiums are likely to dramatically increase. He said the City’s deductible was $10,000 for the incident. Euwing said the City has nearly exhausted its total coverage insurance.

In 2010, a motorist was struck and injured by a police vehicle responding to a call and sued the City of Cairo. The suit was ruled in favor of the plaintiff.

During the meeting, the council also voted to approve a revised sketch for a new panel of the levee wall mural. The new segment, which dedicates the mural, was sent back to Janet Rose for revisions in its language. The council asked Rose to change particular phrases in the text of the painting, such as “his family” and “fellow man“ to make them more gender neutral.

The council also approve an addition to an ordinance passed on Aug. 14 which prohibited the consumption of alcohol within 25 ft. of a liquor establishment, within 25 ft. of a public street and within 15 ft. of a sidewalk. The new ordinance would add that no one is to loiter within 25 ft. of a liquor establishment.

The council also approved a proposal for another grant to help with the City’s recent beautification projects.

During his regular comments, Coleman said the demolition project was going well and that St. Mary’s Park is being prepared for the Oct. 6 Toll House Jam.

— Isaac Smith can be reached at (618)-734-4242