The beginning of Lent was marked by Ash Wednesday this week. People throughout the country attended extra church services and received blessings as well as the ceremonious application of ashes to the forehead.
The ashes serve as a reminder of human mortality and as a sign of repentance. The ashes are usually derived from the burning of palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.
A topic on the mind of many at this year’s Ash Wednesday was the shrinking number of places for worship. With congregations throughout the state consolidating due to closing parishes, many in the region attended the Ash Wednesday mass held at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Cairo.
Mary Caballero, a member a new member of the St. Patrick’s congregation stated that although the changes of venue have caused some difficulties, things are proceeding in a normal manner.
“Everybody’s ready for a new beginning,” said Cabellero. “We’ve all been getting to know some new faces and it’s been a positive experience for the most part.”
Friar M.C. Mujule led the year’s Ash Wednesday mass and spoke of the changing of seasons as well as the journey that the season of Lent signifies.
“We devote ourselves during Lent as a way to experience what Christ went through,” said Mujule. “We do this through prayer, fasting, and arms giving.”
Mujule highlighted the importance of caring for others throughout the season and reminded those present of suggested canned and other food items which can often be important in a time of need. Nonperishables and canned meats and vegetables are always accepted at St. Patrick’s in Cairo.
Sunday mass for Alexander and Pulaski County Catholics takes place weekly at 11:00 a.m. in Cairo.
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.
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.
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.”
Cairo High School crowned their homecoming royalty on Saturday. Jarvis Woodson and Alexis Murray were selected by the student body as the 2014 homecoming king and queen. The school held a dance after the Homecoming basketball game against Lovejoy. — George Lamboley | The Cairo Citizen
The Pyramid Chess Club, a gathering of students interested in the game of chess, has become a positive resource for all who are involved.
The club allows students who are involved the chance to progress their chess-playing abilities as well as socialize with peers who share the same interests and love of the game.
Members of The Pyramid Chess Club plan to attend the upcoming 6th Annual Metro Saint Louis Class Championship held on February 22 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.
The annual tournament pits students of the same age groups against eachother over the course of three rounds.
Chess philosopher and editor of “The Chess Club Chronicles” newsletter Zayn Hollis describes playing chess as “seeing tactical patterns as a sphere rotating through the time-space continuum.”
While chess is seen merely as a game to some, others find the strategy and foresight utilized throughout the game as an ever evolving and progressing war between two opponents. Opponents command tiny armies and mount attacks, hoping to capture the other side’s king and queen.
“To me, chess is like a passport to wealthy living,” said Hollis. I think of all the great minds and how they live and what they have done.”
The Pyramid Chess Club meets regularly throughout the school year and encourages those interested to check out what is offered.
The Alexander County Board of Commissioners met before their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday at the Alexander County Courthouse. The meeting was called by board chairman Harold McNeely.The members met with Kim Meyers, of Hudgens & Meyers, an accounting firm from Marion, about possible strategies to save the county desperately needed money.Meyer offered a number of options to be considered by Alexander County as cost-cutting measures. Among the list were ideas about reviewing the County’s tax levy on a yearly basis, paying actual unemployment claims instead of a flat rate, amd reviewing the Ambulance Fund to determine if any fringe benefit costs can be reimbursed to the respective fringe benefit funds. Meyer reminded those present that they were not obliged to take her advice however, the different options were worth considering.“You don’t have to listen to a word of my advice and you never have to see me again but, I do enjoy working with people and helping alleviate some of the financial stress,” said Meyer.
The possibility of having cost studies performed on the Sheriff’s Department and County Clerk. After the studies are performed increases in Civil Service fees and Bail Bonds fees are often allowed and can be used to assist the general fund. A capital asset fund was also proposed as a means of handling future unforseen expenses.
During the regularly scheduled meeting board members heard from Nancy Holtz of Southern 7 Health Department. Holtz presented Southern 7’s fiscal year report for 2013.
A motion to approve a contract with Shawnee Professional Service for land surveying in the area was passed. The premise plat is required by the state before the FEMA buyout can continue. The process is to be completed in seven weeks and will cost roughly $82,800 altogether.
County Clerk Frances Lee made board members aware that in the near future six computers, three printers, and a server will need to be purchased to keep the county office’s operating. Lee stated that she recieved an estimate of $39,800 for the total cost of the upgrade.
State’s Attorney Jeff Ferris stated that he believed the equipment could be obtained for far less money.
“That seems incredibly high to me,” said Ferris.
The Board of Commissioners then adjourned into executive session to discuss personnel and litigation.