The Week in Photos: June 27, 2013

The visual report from the week of June 27, 2013.

Ja’Ron Bailey, middle, plays in a sprinkler June 21 during a summer festival hosted by the Early Childhood and Prevention Initiative in St. Mary’s Park in Cairo. The event had water games for kids including a dunking booth and a large sprinkler set up by the Cairo Fire Department. The festival also was host to Wellness on Wheeles and Dental Safari, which allowed parents to get dental exams and school physicals for their children done all in one place. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Ja’Ron Bailey, middle, plays in a sprinkler June 21 during a summer festival hosted by the Early Childhood and Prevention Initiative in St. Mary’s Park in Cairo. The event had water games for kids including a dunking booth and a large sprinkler set up by the Cairo Fire Department. The festival also was host to Wellness on Wheels and Dental Safari, which allowed parents to get dental exams and school physicals for their children done all in one place. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Emergency workers respond to a truck fire June 18 on northbound Interstate 57 near mile marker 8. The truck caught fire as result of an accident involving one Mounds police officer and state trooper Kent Ray. Pulaski County sheriff Randy Kern said around 4 p.m. June 18, Ray was being supported by a Mounds K-9 unit as he picked up debris from a blown semi-truck tire when a big rig collided with the Mounds K-9 Unit car. After the truck rear-ended the Mounds officer, it hit Ray as he was standing in the road. Kern said both Ray and the Mounds officer were released from St. Francis Hospital in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Ray may have a broken foot and the Mounds officer has whiplash. Kern said the officer who performed the reconstruction of the scene has deemed it to be the truck-driver’s fault, however he has not been given the official report and could not offer more details. – Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Emergency workers respond to a truck fire June 18 on northbound Interstate 57 near mile marker 8. The truck caught fire as result of an accident involving one Mounds police officer and state trooper Kent Ray. Pulaski County sheriff Randy Kern said around 4 p.m. June 18, Ray was being supported by a Mounds K-9 unit as he picked up debris from a blown semi-truck tire when a big rig collided with the Mounds K-9 Unit car. After the truck rear-ended the Mounds officer, it hit Ray as he was standing in the road. Kern said both Ray and the Mounds officer were released from St. Francis Hospital in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Ray may have a broken foot and the Mounds officer has whiplash. Kern said the officer who performed the reconstruction of the scene has deemed it to be the truck-driver’s fault, however he has not been given the official report and could not offer more details. – Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Kelly Booher, left, is presented with a plaque June 19 by Pulaski County sheriff Randy Kern during a surprise 90th birthday party held for Booher at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Mound City. When asked about what has kept him coming in to work everyday during his 13 years at the courthouse, he said it simply comes down to the fact he does not like to sit at home. “When you don’t like staying home, you try to keep doing what you are doing, if you like it, as long as you can,” he said. Booher said he plans on hanging it up soon, though. He intends to retire by Feb. of 2014, which would be his 14th anniversary at the Courthouse. – Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Kelly Booher, left, is presented with a plaque June 19 by Pulaski County sheriff Randy Kern during a surprise 90th birthday party held for Booher at the Pulaski County Courthouse in Mound City. When asked about what has kept him coming in to work everyday during his 13 years at the courthouse, he said it simply comes down to the fact he does not like to sit at home. “When you don’t like staying home, you try to keep doing what you are doing, if you like it, as long as you can,” he said. Booher said he plans on hanging it up soon, though. He intends to retire by Feb. of 2014, which would be his 14th anniversary at the Courthouse. – Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Kids fall during a game of tug of war June 19 during the seventh annual Alexander County Health Fair at Cairo High School. The event was sponsored by the Alexander, Pulaski Action Council and was designed to educate attendees about various health issues, it also provided free or reduced cost health screenings and physicals. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Kids fall during a game of tug of war June 19 during the seventh annual Alexander County Health Fair at Cairo High School. The event was sponsored by the Alexander, Pulaski Action Council and was designed to educate attendees about various health issues, it also provided free or reduced cost health screenings and physicals. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

 

Bre-aja Williams, 3, right, has her ears inspected by LPN Julia Thrower June 21 during her first school physical onboard the Wellness on Wheels bus during the Early Childhood and Prevention Initiative’s Summer Festival at St. Mary’s Park in Cairo. The event hosted Wellness on Wheels as well as Dental Safari, a portable dental office, along with summer activities as a way to give parents a chance to get their children’s school medical checks done all in one spot. Williams’ mother, Jackie Vaughn said coming to the festival saved her time and money. She said on the physical alone she saved $30. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Bre-aja Williams, 3, right, has her ears inspected by LPN Julia Thrower June 21 during her first school physical on board the Wellness on Wheels bus during the Early Childhood and Prevention Initiative’s Summer Festival at St. Mary’s Park in Cairo. The event hosted Wellness on Wheels as well as Dental Safari, a portable dental office, along with summer activities as a way to give parents a chance to get their children’s school medical checks done all in one spot. Williams’ mother, Jackie Vaughn said coming to the festival saved her time and money. She said on the physical alone she saved $30. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

CPU manager recovers from attack

Cairo Public Utility general manager Glenn Klett has been released from the hospital and is recovering from injuries sustained during an incident June 13 outside the Dollar General in Cairo.

No new information has been released regarding the case. After several attempts to obtain a report from The Cairo Police Department, The Cairo Citizen was told one had not yet been filed.

After leaving two messages, Cairo chief of police Bernard Brown could not be reached.

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

Winds damage Alexander County Courthouse

An early morning storm May 21 damaged nearly 50% of the Alexander County Courthouse’s roof.

Alexander County circuit clerk Paul Jones, left, answers the phone and eats a standing lunch May 21 in his office in the Alexander County Courthouse in Cairo as his staff works to box up any paper documents after a storm early that morning damaged the roof. Jerry Held, Alexander County Emergency Management coordinator, said around 3 a.m. winds pulled the west side of the roof eastward. It is estimated nearly half of the roof was lifted up. This left several large holes in the roof, causing wide-spread leaking throughout the Courthouse. John Price, Alexander County building commissioner, said were it not for the antenna on the roof of the building, it is likely most of the roof would have been ripped off. The storm also left four air conditioning units irreparable. Several offices were boxed up and temporarily relocated so clean up and repair could take place in the building. Jones and his team will be operating out of the Cairo Junior High School until their office has been cleaned up. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Alexander County circuit clerk Paul Jones, left, answers the phone and eats a standing lunch May 21 in his office in the Alexander County Courthouse in Cairo as his staff works to box up any paper documents after a storm early that morning damaged the roof. Jerry Held, Alexander County Emergency Management coordinator, said around 3 a.m. winds pulled the west side of the roof eastward. It is estimated nearly half of the roof was lifted up. This left several large holes in the roof, causing wide-spread leaking throughout the Courthouse. John Price, Alexander County building commissioner, said were it not for the antenna on the roof of the building getting caught on the edge of the roof, it is likely most of the roof would have been ripped off. The storm also left four air conditioning units irreparable. Several offices were boxed up and temporarily relocated so clean up and repair could take place in the building. Jones and his team will be operating out of the Cairo Junior High School until their office has been cleaned up. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Winds nearly tore off half of the Alexander County Courthouse's roof.
Winds nearly tore off half of the Alexander County Courthouse’s roof.– Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

 

Finding closure

Donna Pearman talks on the phone with a relative April 25 in her home in Cairo. Pearman said since her sister’s body was found April 24, she has had a hard time keeping up with all the phone calls she has received from both family and the media. --Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Donna Pearman talks on the phone with a relative April 25 in her home in Cairo. Pearman said since her sister’s body was found April 24, she has had a hard time keeping up with all the phone calls she has received from both family and the media. –Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

The family of Sandra Farris have been praying for closure, though the closure they got may not have been what they wanted.

It had been 27 days since 55-year-old Sandra Farris went missing in Cairo when river workers near Paducah, Ky. found a body floating in the Ohio River April 24. Donna Pearman, Farris’ sister said she happened to have the news on that afternoon when the report came that a body had been found. Donna was tipped off that it may have been her sister when reporters mentioned the body was found wearing blue jeans and Nike tennis shoes. When she heard the news, Pearman contacted Farris’ only child, Shanna Farris, of Cape Girardeau, Mo . Shanna said she was confident her mother had been found even before the body was identified.

“I knew that was my mom,” Shanna said.

Donna, her daughter Shelly Pearman and Shanna spent the rest of the afternoon contacting the authorities to find out if the body found was, indeed, their loved one. By 4:00 p.m., Donna and Shelly were asked to come to Paducah to identify the body. When the two arrived at the Coroner’s office, they were shown select photographs and were able to identify the body as Sandra’s because of two pieces of jewelry: a ring and an engraved necklace. Donna said, though she was incredibly sad she felt like she was given closure.

“I felt like God answered my prayer,” she said. “I didn’t want to keep thinking everyday that someone had her and that she was being tortured.” Shanna also said her mother being found brought her a sense of closure.

“I didn’t know if her body was ever going to be found,” she said.

Cairo Police Officer Jody Benbrook said Farris’ case is closed in Cairo. He said the investigation will now be handled by investigators in Kentucky.

Detective Tim Reed with the McCracken County Kentucky Sheriff’s Department and lead investigator in Sandra’s case said his office does not suspect foul play.

“The medical examiner’s office did not find any trauma to Ms. Farris’ body,” Reed said. Reed said his office has yet to receive an official cause of death.

Reed said there are still big questions that need to be answered.

“Just the fact that she was found in the river does not really explain it,” Reed said. “We’ve got the beginning, she left the house to go for a walk, and we’ve got the end, she was recovered, deceased, from the river.” Reed said what happened in between is still a mystery.

Because Farris went missing in Cairo, where the Ohio River ends, one big question is how Farris managed to be found up stream in the Ohio. Reed said there are two possible answers to this: She went into one of the rivers around Cairo and was carried upstream by a barge. Reed said another explanation could that she got in or was put in a car and was taken North of Paducah and put in the river.

The necklace found on Sandra’s body, a Christmas gift from Donna, was engraved with words both Donna and Shanna feel helped her body be found. The back of the necklace reads,” May the Lord’s angels guide and guard you through this life.” Shanna now wears the necklace everyday and said she hopes the words will also protect her the way she believes they did her mother.

“I feel like when I wear that now, maybe it will keep me safe,” she said.

A celebration of Sandra’s life was held May 1 at Jones’ Funeral Home in Villa Ridge.

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

The Week in Photos: April 11, 2013

The visual report for the week of April 11, 2013

 Rev. Dennis Clark leads prayer for church member Sandra Ferris April 6 during a vigil at her sister’s home in Cairo. Clark said he has known Farris for two years and was even the one who baptized her. -- Jessica Tezak | The Cairo Citizen
Rev. Dennis Clark leads prayer for church member Sandra Ferris April 6 during a vigil at her sister’s home in Cairo. Clark said he has known Farris for two years and was even the one who baptized her. — Jessica Tezak | The Cairo Citizen
Mae Morris, of Mounds City, middle, Dorris Sims, left, of Elco, and Melissa Clark, right, of Cairo, pray during a candlelight vigil April 6 in Cairo. -- Steve Matzker | The Cairo Citizen
Mae Morris, of Mounds City, middle, Dorris Sims, left, of Elco, and Melissa Clark, right, of Cairo, pray during a candlelight vigil April 6 in Cairo. — Steve Matzker | The Cairo Citizen
Shanna Farris, Sandra’s daughter, and her cousin, Shelly Pearman, bow their heads in prayer April 6 at the close of a candlelight vigil held for Sandra Farris in Cairo. Shanna said it meant a lot to her that people came out in support of her and her family, but she said the pain of her mother’s disappearance  is still very real. “I worry myself to death about it but I just have to keep going,” she said. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Shanna Farris, Sandra’s daughter, and her cousin, Shelly Pearman, bow their heads in prayer April 6 at the close of a candlelight vigil held for Sandra Farris in Cairo. Shanna said it meant a lot to her that people came out in support of her and her family, but she said the pain of her mother’s disappearance is still very real. “I worry myself to death about it but I just have to keep going,” she said. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Barbara B. Johnson, left, Tyrus Davis, middle, and Vernon Stubblefield finish packing up the third ward polling location April 9 at the Alexander County Courthouse in Cairo. Many of the polling places throughout the county had a slow day, one not even seeing its first voter until after noon. Stubblefield said in 13 hours of being open, Ward 3 had 30 voters. In all 660 people in Alexander County went out to vote. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Barbara B. Johnson, left, Tyrus Davis, middle, and Vernon Stubblefield finish packing up the third ward polling location April 9 at the Alexander County Courthouse in Cairo. Many of the polling places throughout the county had a slow day, one not even seeing its first voter until after noon. Stubblefield said in 13 hours of being open, Ward 3 had 30 voters. In all 660 people in Alexander County went out to vote. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

 

Senior Blaine Crow\ attempts to tag out a runner at second base April 4 during the Meridian Bobcats’  away loss to the Cobden Appleknockers. The Bobcats fell 9-1.
Senior Blaine Crow\ attempts to tag out a runner at second base April 4 during the Meridian Bobcats’ away loss to the Cobden Appleknockers. The Bobcats fell 9-1.

 

Junior Brad Wilson waits for a good pitch April 3 during the Centurions’ home loss against the Pope County Pirates. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Junior Brad Wilson waits for a good pitch April 3 during the Centurions’ home loss against the Pope County Pirates. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

Waiting for word

Sandra Farris went missing March 28 while taking a walk around St. Mary’s park. It has been nearly two weeks since her disappearance and her family still has no clues as to what happened to their loved one.

 Rev. Dennis Clark leads prayer for church member Sandra Ferris April 6 during a vigil at her sister’s home in Cairo. Clark said he has known Farris for two years and was even the one who baptized her. -- Jessica Tezak | The Cairo Citizen
Rev. Dennis Clark leads prayer for church member Sandra Ferris April 6 during a vigil at her sister’s home in Cairo. Clark said he has known Farris for two years and was even the one who baptized her. — Jessica Tezak | The Cairo Citizen
Mae Morris, of Mounds City, middle, Dorris Sims, left, of Elco, and Melissa Clark, right, of Cairo, pray during a candlelight vigil April 6 in Cairo. -- Steve Matzker | The Cairo Citizen
Mae Morris, of Mounds City, middle, Dorris Sims, left, of Elco, and Melissa Clark, right, of Cairo, pray during a candlelight vigil April 6 in Cairo. — Steve Matzker | The Cairo Citizen
Shanna Farris, Sandra’s daughter, and her cousin, Shelly Pearman, bow their heads in prayer April 6 at the close of a candlelight vigil held for Sandra Farris in Cairo. Shanna said it meant a lot to her that people came out in support of her and her family, but she said the pain of her mother’s disappearance  is still very real. “I worry myself to death about it but I just have to keep going,” she said. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Shanna Farris, Sandra’s daughter, and her cousin, Shelly Pearman, bow their heads in prayer April 6 at the close of a candlelight vigil held for Sandra Farris in Cairo. Shanna said it meant a lot to her that people came out in support of her and her family, but she said the pain of her mother’s disappearance is still very real. “I worry myself to death about it but I just have to keep going,” she said. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

 

Search still on for missing Cairo woman

Sandra Farris, photo provided by family
Sandra Farris, photo provided by family

It has been a long five days for the Pearman family.

In the early evening  March 28 Donna Pearman and her daughter Shelly Pearman filled a missing persons report for Sandra Farris, Donna’s sister and Shelly’s aunt.

Donna said her sister regularly went for a walks through St. Mary’s park. So that she was gone for part of the afternoon was nothing to be concerned about. However Donna said when she realized her sister still was not home by dinner time and after noticing her purse, cell phone and personal belongs were still in the house, she began to worry.

Donna said once she realized something was amiss she began calling important contacts in her sister’s cell phone to rule out where she could have been. She had no luck.

“That’s when I called the cops,” Donna said.

That night Donna said she and her daughter stayed up all night,  hoping for word and spent the following day going through the neighborhood with a photo of Sandra asking if any neighbors had seen her.

Jerry Held, coordinator for the Alexander County Emergency management Agency said he was called at 6:30 p.m. Friday by the Cairo Fire Department to assist in a search. Held said a twenty-man  team with members of his office, the Cairo Fire Department, Cairo Auxiliary Fire Department as well as the Horseshoe Lake Fired Department searched until 2:30 a.m. March 30 and were back out only hours later.

“They were searching the wooded areas long the levee and the river,” Held said. He added the team was searching in abandoned buildings in Cairo as well. Held said on March 30 the team covered 42 miles before ending the search that afternoon. They found no sign of Farris.

“We did everything I think we could do as a group,” Held said. He said the investigation is now in the hands of the Cairo Police Department.

Cairo Police Chief Bernard Brown declined comment for this story because the investigation is still open.

Despite no sign of her sister as of April 2, Donna has not lost hope. She has been out looking for Sandra everyday since she went missing.

Donna said the stress of not knowing what happened to her sister is something she wishes no one had to experience.

“I’m scared. I’m so scared,” Donna said “I wish this on no one,”

Officials say Farris is 55, 5’6, 134 lbs and ha brown hair and blue eyes.

As of press time, no sign of Sandra’s whereabouts had been found. Police are asking anyone with information to call their office at (618)-734-2131

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

The Week in Photos: March 21, 2013

The visual report from the week of March 21, 2013.

Cairo Chief of Police Bernard Brown, right, briefs patrolman Meric Hawkins, before Hawkins started his shift March 14 at the Cairo Police Department. Brown was appointed Chief of Police in Feb. after Gary Hankins announced his retirement. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Cairo Chief of Police Bernard Brown, right, briefs patrolman Meric Hawkins, before Hawkins started his shift March 14 at the Cairo Police Department. Brown was appointed Chief of Police in Feb. after Gary Hankins announced his retirement. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Cairo Fire Deptartment Captain Toronzo Graham works on the scene of a fire March 15 on Interstate 57 North. Meyer said his crew stayed on the scene for six hours where they fought the fire and controlled the scene. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Cairo fire department captain Toronzo Graham works on the scene of a fire March 15 on Interstate 57 North. Meyer said his crew stayed on the scene for six hours where they fought the fire and controlled the scene. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Drivers of the burning semi-truck watch as firefighters extinguish their truck March 15. Meyer said no one was hurt as a result of the fire and said it is suspected the blaze was started either by over-heated breaks or an over-heated bearing. The emergency blocked northbound traffic crossing the Mississippi River bridge for more than an hour.  -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Drivers of the burning semi-truck watch as firefighters extinguish their truck March 15. Meyer said no one was hurt as a result of the fire and said it is suspected the blaze was started either by over-heated breaks or an over-heated bearing. The emergency blocked northbound traffic crossing the Mississippi River bridge for more than an hour. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

 

From left to right Retha Eurales, troop leader of Girl Scout troop 8562, Arianna Bristol and Jalisa Lattimore talk with Mayor Tyrone Coleman March 14 at Cairo City Hall after Coleman signed a proclimation declaring the week of March 10-16, 2013  Girl Scout Week. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
From left to right Retha Eurales, troop leader of Girl Scout troop 8562, Arianna Bristol and Jalisa Lattimore talk with Mayor Tyrone Coleman March 14 at Cairo City Hall after Coleman signed a proclamation declaring the week of March 10-16, 2013 Girl Scout Week. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Senior pitcher Wyatt Isom jumps to avoid stepping on Gallatin County player March 14 during the Bobcats season opener at Meridian High School. The Bobcats fell to the Hawks 7-4 -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Senior pitcher Wyatt Isom jumps to avoid stepping on Gallatin County player March 14 during the Bobcats season opener at Meridian High School. The Bobcats fell to the Hawks 7-4 — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

 

Two months since Tamms

Sidney Miller, right, talks with Gene Brown, middle, and Nicholas Palmer, Miller’s nephew, Mar. 4 at Miller’s home in Olive Branch before leaving for his night shift at Menard Correctional Center in Chester. Miller, a former Tamms employee said before the closure, he drove 12 miles to work. He now has to drive 70 miles. The increased commute costs him $125 a week in gas and increases the hours of his work day. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Sidney Miller, right, talks with Gene Brown, middle, and Nicholas Palmer, Miller’s nephew, Mar. 4 at Miller’s home in Olive Branch before leaving for his night shift at Menard Correctional Center in Chester. Miller, a former Tamms employee said before the closure, he drove 12 miles to work. He now has to drive 70 miles. The increased commute costs him $125 a week in gas and increases the hours of his work day. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

The saga of Tamms prison did not end when it was shuttered two months ago.

The effects of Tamms’ closure have been felt not only in Southern Illinois, but also elsewhere throughout the state as the closures displaced thousands of inmates who were transferred to already over-populated facilities.

To deal with the prison over-population issue, Gov. Pat Quinn’s office recently moved hundreds of inmates into prison gymnasiums as cells have become too crowded.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Stacey Solano said this is only being done in six select, minimum-security level prisons and stressed the measure is not permanent.

“The department anticipates the need for the temporary housing units to decrease in the coming months,” Solano said.

However, State Senator Gary Forby, D–Benton, and a spokesperson for the American Federation of Civil, State and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, Eddie Caumiant, said they do not see how this is possible.

“Our prison system is capable of [holding] 33,000 and we’ve got 49,000 prisoners already,” Forby said.

Caumiant agreed with the prison population numbers and said they are projected to increase to 50,000 by the end of the year.

The burden of overpopulation is leading some to speculate that an increase in violence is due to this overcrowding in the Illinois prison system. Many point to incidents like the one Feb. 5 at Menard where three correctional officers were injured after nearly 15 inmates attacked one officer in the prison chapel.

Caumiant said he estimates there have been less than ten, but more than five violent incidents in state correctional facilities since Tamms closed its doors in January.  He said these incidents include assaults targeted towards correctional officers or involve officers breaking up inmate on inmate fights.

Forby said he has seen this coming all along.

“I said, ‘When Tamms Prison closes down you are going to see the other prisons start having problems,’” Forby said.

However, Solano said numbers reported to her office do not reflect an increase in violence, they in fact they show just the opposite.

“Data shows that serious staff and inmate assaults have actually decreased system wide in fiscal year 13 from the same timeframe in fiscal year 12 (July-Jan),” Solano said.

While the impact of prison closures are certainly felt in the prison system, it extends also to the homes of correctional employees.

Sidney Miller, a correctional officer with nine years experience, recently took a reassignment to Menard Correctional Center in Chester after the closure of Tamms. He said the transition has not exactly been easy.

“The second day on the job an inmate hit the officer in front of me and we had to tackle him and subdue him,” Miller said, adding this type of an assault was rare at Tamms.  “… But up there [at Menard], that’s an everyday, every week occurrence.”

Miller said the change in work environment is not the only challenge.

A life-long resident of Olive Branch, Miller went from driving 12 miles to work to driving 70 miles, saying it is roughly a one hour and fifteen minutes drive just to get to work, which has dramatically increased his workday.

“My days went from eight hours to 12 hours,” Miller said.

In addition to the increase in travel time, Miller estimated he now spends nearly $125. a week in increased fuel expenses and this has put a strain on his finances.

The State said that the closure of Tamms and other correctional facilities throughout the state came down to one thing: money.  Solano said the closure of these prisons would save the taxpayers an estimated $70 million annually with the closure of Tamms alone providing considerable costs savings.

“The operating cost of Tamms was $26.6 million per year,” Solano said.  “The department will now only spend approximately $225,000 annually for general upkeep, utilities and maintenance.”

Forby joined others in saying that in the long run the State will not actually save money and used the example of the State currently having to find housing for the overflow of inmates as an example.

While the closure of Tamms appeared to signal the end of the line for AFSCME’s fight to keep it open, there is new dialogue beginning at the state level to reopen it. With the overpopulation of the Illinois Prison System, many are calling for Tamms to be reopened simply to house the extra, minimum-security inmates.

Illinois State Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, has joined Forby and AFSCME leaders in a pursuit to repurpose Tamms.

Correctional officer Miller said he does not understand why Tamms is not already being used this way.

“We’ve got a 200 bed, minimum security unit ready to go. Why not just open it back up?” Miller questioned.

Solano said the state has reached out to the federal correction system about the possible purchase of Tamms, but little has happened since it was proposed.

Miller said he and his family are still holding out hope Tamms will reopen in some way and he will be able to return to work there, he is just not sure how long they can wait.

“If Tamms is not going to reopen, we are going to be thinking about moving,” Miller said.

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

Fights disrupt regionals

Pulaski County police control a crowd Feb. 20 after fights broke out following the Cairo and Meridian Regional Semifinal game at Meridian High School. Police presence was increased and new protocols put in place at all the following Regional games to ensure no more fights broke out amongst fans. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Pulaski County police control a crowd Feb. 20 after fights broke out following the Cairo and Meridian Regional Semifinal game at Meridian High School. Police presence was increased and new protocols put in place at all the following Regional games to ensure no more fights broke out amongst fans. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

The Meridian Bobcats toppled the Cairo Pilots in post-season play, but this was not the news of the day Feb. 20.

The story that developed came after the historic rivalry between Cairo and Meridian fans boiled over. Fights between after the game caused the second competition of the night between Century and Egyptian to be postponed for two days.

Pulaski County Sheriff Randy Kern said the violence came as a surprise. He was in the hallway when the first fight broke out.

“I grabbed a hold of one of them and the next thing I know they are jumping on me, on my back and I’m on the floor,” he said. Kern said he quickly realized he and his 11 officers were outnumbered.

“We were going fight to fight to fight. We were totally out numbered,” Kern said. Kern said no ballplayers were involved in the incidents.

School officials from both Meridian and Cairo decided to take steps to help prevent any other disruptions to the tournament. Kern attended a meeting Feb. 21 with school officials, the lieutenant of the State Police, his chief deputy and the principal of Meridian High School to draw up the game plan to be implemented at all high priority sporting events at the high school. At the rescheduled semi-final game and the Regional Championship Kern  and 14 other officers covered all the doors and separated fans as they left the gym in hopes to prevent any more fights, a solution that Meridian School District Superintendent Terry Moreland said was sufficient. Athletic Director for Cairo Jr. / Sr. High School Ronnie Woods was also at both games to make sure no one from Cairo involved in the incident Feb. 20 was let in to the game.

Woods said while these kinds of measures are necessary, he it is sad and these kinds of incidents do more than just disrupt a night of basketball.

“It hurts the kids that participate. It hurts the community that wants to come together to see a good competition,” Woods said. Headcoach for the Bobcats Jeff Mandrell said while the schools can’t be blamed it defiantly hurts public perception.

“I think it makes the schools look bad,” he said. Mandrell said he wishes those who come to games to start trouble would simply stay home.

“You wish people would either go to the games to watch or just not go,” he said.

Linda Blake, left, hands out tickets for the rescheduled Century/Egyptian Regional Semifinal basketball game Feb. 20. The game was postponed because of fights that broke out after the Cairo and Meridian basketball game. Police said no arrests were made that night, though some are pending and no players were involved in the incidents. -- Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen
Linda Blake, left, hands out tickets for the rescheduled Century/Egyptian Regional Semifinal basketball game Feb. 20. The game was postponed because of fights that broke out after the Cairo and Meridian basketball game. Police said no arrests were made that night, though some are pending. No players were involved in the incidents. — Isaac Smith | The Cairo Citizen

Cairo School District Superintendent Andrea  Evers said she was emotional leaving the Feb. 20 game.

“My heart is really heavy,” Evers said. She said to have this incident be the bookend to a very good season is disheartening.

“To have a negative shadow cast over their season because of the choices of an adult is just saddening,” she said.

Kern said no arrests were made Feb. 20 in regards to the fights at the basketball game, though investigations are being conducted and arrests are pending.

Woods said the two schools are primarily looking to get beyond this season, after that they will look at how to make sure next year runs smoother. He said several options have been proposed including having no fans attend future Cairo, Meridian games or having a student only game, though, Woods is not a fan of any of these ideas.

“All those options …  are sad. It says a statement about your community,” Woods said. While he sees how dire things may seem now, Woods is hopeful they will get better.

“I think it’s something that can be solved,” he said.

For an editorial regarding the Feb. 20 regional game, please visit:
www.thecairocitizen.com

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