Cairo Illinois - A great place to liv...

Cairo Illinois - A great place to live if you are not on a fixed income

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New Cairoite

United States

#1 Jul 1, 2008
This is the biggest "I wish I had known" of my adult life, even bigger than the "I wish I had known what it was like to have a teenager".
I am not trying to scare you away from this little "village". On the contrary, I hope you like challenges and join us. There is so much potential here. There are some beautiful houses at unbelievable prices. There are the rivers and the tugboats work all night. And, there are some really great people.
You will drive through the commercial district that has been decimated. Locals will tell you it is because of the civil rights struggle of the 70's. But, somehow, your gut will tell you there is more to it than that.
I saw the destruction and thought I could deal with it. What I didn't know was that it was what you COULDN’T SEE that decimated this city and made it the small village it is today.
What you do not see immediately is the corruption. Yes, I know, corruption is everywhere. But, can you name another city that:
1. has not prepared and issued financial statements since 2002
2. latest copy of city code is dated 1974
3. has a treasurer in charge of finances who has not read a lease “because it is too long”
4. will not give residents a list of council members’ names, phone #s, and addresses
5. HAD very low (NOW very high) utility rates with city owned utility until the mayor and council gave some local individuals a 33 YEAR, fixed dollar amount lease to operate it. That is right, app.$ 50,000 a month lease income for 33 YEARS, never an increase regardless of how much money the utility company makes (my neighbors are on the budget plan of $ 475 a month for a newer, well-maintained brick home with new windows)
6. has a council that takes (no work required) app.$ 1200 a month salary, medical and pension when they do not have financial statements to tell them whether or not the city is solvent
7. subs out the trash service, but does not lay off any employees
8. has fewer than 2000 residents and maintains a fully-staffed fire department with only a 5 ISO rating
9. has an elected official that asks “What’s the big deal about thieves stealing copper out of houses; they do it everywhere, don’t they?”
10. has a current council member who has been found guilty of a felony and remains on the council

cont'd.....
New Cairoite

United States

#2 Jul 1, 2008
“Why are these issues important?”, you may ask. They all directly or indirectly affect the most important issue - item # 1. Since financial statements have not been prepared for 5 years, there is no way to determine the city’s obligations and what future property taxes will be. Property taxes are currently very high. I pay $ 1,100 for a $ 10,000 house. The city treasurer just announced the taxes would have to go up each of the next 3 years just to cover misappropriated funds from a few years ago. This increase is in addition to any other increases required to meet city obligations. My taxes could be $ 4,000 in a few years. Or, more. There are problems at the county level, also. In another post, I responded to a newspaper article about a homeowner’s taxes more than doubling in one year.

My first piece of advice would be the same anywhere. DO NOT use the realtor who has the house listed. Get your own realtor to represent you, the buyer!!!!! And, still be very leery of what they tell you. Ask them to put it in writing.

Again, property taxes are your biggest issue here. Since I had owned property in California, I had no reason not to believe the local real estate woman when she told me the property taxes would go “way down” and that the county would do it automatically when the deed was filed. Well, she lied to me. They didn’t go “way down”. I talked with the assessor and she informed me that the “Sale Price” of the house did not determine “Market Value” in Cairo, Illinois; SHE determined market value every 4 years. The only way I can get my property taxes reduced is to hire an attorney and spend thousands of dollars on an appeal. And, the locals who understand the corruption here tell me it will be a waste of my money.

The politics here could change. The fight for Cairo Illinois can be won. And, it can be won faster if you know coming in what is happening here.
not quite

Cairo, IL

#3 Jul 1, 2008
1st, the City code is updated continually as new ordinances are added. I don't think you could expect a total reprint for every ordinance.
2nd,Council salary is $600/month(probably too high), but, not $1200.
3rd, Refuse will be contracted out with the hope of catching up on other neglected items, such as working on sewers, mowing, basically anything to do with the appearance of the city or working of infrastructure.
4th, the fully staffed fire department consists of one full time fireman on duty, the rest are paid on call.
The rest of these claims I would have to investigate, however, from what I've seen so far you have probably added your own spin to them also.
New Cairoite

United States

#4 Jul 1, 2008
These are not spins; these are facts:

1st, I was handed by the treasurer a copy dated 1974. I was not handed any updates. And, anyone would expect it to be reprinted more often than once every 34 YEARS. But, then maybe not when the city enters into 33 YEAR, fixed dollar leases!

2nd, I stated app.$ 1200 a month SALARY, MEDICAL AND PENSION. Your reading/comprehension skills haven't improved, I see. Is that not a good number, please tell us how much each council member is costing us.

3rd, you acknowledge that there have been no layoffs and will be no layoffs of workers now that trash service has been contracted out. You are telling the taxpayers of Cairo that a city that does not have a budget for the current fiscal year (they are now in the 3rd month of the fiscal year and the Treasurer says he has not started working on the budget because state law says it does not have to be done until the end of July)and does not have financial statements since 2002 was able to determine that it was in their best interest to pay 20+% more for trash service plus pay more employees to mow grass, etc.

4th, I was obviously unable to get copies of a budget or financials since they do not exist, but I was told by the Treasurer that the fire dept budget was in excess of $ 240,000. How far in excess, I cannot determine. If you are going to dispute what I say, then come back with facts to dispute it. Come back with a list of firefighters and their salaries, pensions, medical, hours worked last fiscal year, etc..
New Cairoite

United States

#5 Jul 1, 2008
Oh, and thank you for your comments. The more you say, the better feel readers (both current and potential taxpayers) will have for what is going on here in Cairo Illinois!

been-there

Cairo, IL

#6 Jul 1, 2008
New Cairoite wrote:
These are not spins; these are facts:

2nd, I stated app.$ 1200 a month SALARY, MEDICAL AND PENSION. Your reading/comprehension skills haven't improved, I see. Is that not a good number, please tell us how much each council member is costing us.
Once upon a time, many years ago the City of Cairo used to print a financial statement in the Cairo Citizen of the prior year. In it would be a list of vendors & how much was paid to each one. A list of each department (police, fire, street, office) and each employee & how much they made. Then it would break down by department what their expenses were. It also listed what income was generated the previous year (taxes, stocks, leases, etc.) This gave the citizens of Cairo more insight of what was transpiring in city hall.

The $600.00 salary plus insurance & pensions =$1,200.00 for city councilmen is just to outlandish to believe. Does any one know what is the going rate for a city with a population of 2500 - 3000?
Missing Cairo

Utica, KY

#7 Jul 1, 2008
Been There, you are absolutely correct about the yearly statement. It was prepared by the City Clerk's office and typed by the bookkeeper, who, by the way, also did the payroll for all city employees, including the electric company.

If Cairo wants to be considered more than just an ineptly run little village, it will have to return to more professional behaviour on the part of its officials. However, MOST of the people on the current board have not really had the background neccessary for running a successful business, much less a city. Instead of working against them, I hope that those with the know-how will offer to help turn the town around by attending City Council meetings and continually volunteering their knowledge and man/womanpower. How could such a generous offer be refused!?!?!?
New Cairoite

United States

#8 Jul 1, 2008
I should disclose that I am not on a fixed income and the $ 1,100 tax is on a rental. Yes, thanks to the local realtor, I am the proud owner of a rental, a rental I never wanted. The tax on my house is more than double that of the rental.

There are people here on fixed incomes and they live in and heat one room in the winter. These are people who are working or have worked all their lives. It is not their reality to go looking for a handout; they were raised to make do with what they could afford. A lesson the city AND county need to learn!

For those of us who can afford the property taxes, the question will be how much are we willing to pay. Will we be willing to pay $ 500 a month? I talked with a new Cairoite yesterday and she was thinking $ 200 -$ 250 would be her maximum. Our property taxes are more than our house payments.

I talked to someone today who tried to defend not laying off the employees who used to haul trash. It is very difficult to argue the city is short of help when you watch some of them work. How often do you see the street guys, including the superintendent, sitting in their trucks in the street (motor running) chit-chatting with friends for 20 minutes or more? How often do the streets need to be swept with the price of fuel? I sweep my own curb and the neighbors, too. And, who schedules the street sweeper to sweep the same day as trash collection, so the street sweeper is dodging the trash piles? Why do they not publish a schedule and require cars to be moved? Why don't they have a chipper so they can chip up the tree limbs instead of making umpteen trips? How many of you saw the two guys in the truck last week? The passenger was laid back with his arm hanging out the window; the driver got out, loaded the limbs, and got back in and very slowly drove away.(Even their defender remarked about how sloooowly they drive.) The passenger worker never moved. Do you think he was on the clock?

Does anyone know how many employees have left the city in the last 5 years? Do they have 20%, 30%, 10% fewer employees?

If we had financial statements for the last five years, we would know.
Missing Cairo

Utica, KY

#9 Jul 1, 2008
Believe me, as much as we, and others, want to return to Cairo, we are watching carefully and comparing to our current localities and to other prospective retirement destinations.

I congratulate you on doing more than what may be your share in cleaning up and hope that others will follow in your footsteps. The rise and fall of the town is the responsibility of everyone there and not just the city officials. However, when those officials see the townspeople getting involved, they might just realize that more is going to be expected of them.

My best wishes to everyone in beloved Cairo.
New Cairoite

United States

#10 Jul 1, 2008
I am from that "personal responsibility" generation. BUT..........

Look at what I just found and posted over on Cairogate.com . The organizers would have contacted somebody at the city. If we, the residents had known, we would have gotten involved and made it a success.

b]Bicycle Illinois 2008
Saturday, July 05, 2008 - Saturday, July 12, 2008
Cairo to Chicago, Illinois[/b]

*** Starts at the Point.***

Bicycle Illinois is the only fully supported bicycle tour across the entire length of Illinois!
You'll cycle for 6 days from Cairo to downtown Chicago and cover 500 to 600 miles with nightly stops in Carbondale, Centralia, Effingham, Champaign, and Kankakee!

The sponsor of this event would have contacted the city, most like Preston Ewing.

Ask your commissioner if Preston announced the event at the city council meeting.

Was anything done? Was the park mowed? Was a banner prepared saying "Welcome Bicycle Illinois 2008" and hung at the entrance to the park?(Those banners are free from beer, Pepsi and Coke distributors) Were potential vendors made aware of the event? The city could have sold vendor spaces for food, t-shirts, etc... Were businesses in town alerted so they could hang out welcoming banners and be open Saturday? Did we arrange for running water and porta potties?

Please contact your commissioner and see if something can get done in the next 3 days.....
Missing Cairo

Utica, KY

#11 Jul 1, 2008
Actually I would think they would have contacted City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce if Cairo still has one. From what I gather, Preston Ewing is not the Mayor or City Clerk.

Who is sponsoring the group....the information seems sketchy at best

Looks like it's time for the citizens of Cairo to form a special events committee and to let the City know they will be available to coordinate and perform, if necessaary, any services that need be done when something like this comes along. The radio station is a great way to get the word out. It may not be too late for this event, and, hopefully, you will all be prepared for the next one.

By the way, this isn't the first time. And, too, someone connected with the Bicycle 2008 program may have dropped the ball.
New Cairoite

Highwood, IL

#12 Jul 1, 2008
Preston Ewing is Treasurer and it appears the City Clerk may report to him. Anytime you go into city hall to talk to the clerk, Preston rushes out of his office to get involved in the conversation. It is unlikely he did not know. We will not discuss his relationship with the chamber of commerce. We really do not know what Preston does since he has not yet started the budget for the fiscal year that started May 1 and has done no financial statements since he took over a year ago and has not read the CPU lease because he says it is "too long".

The taxpayers of Cairo pay a councilwoman to manage the parks dept. I was told today the trash collection employees were being retained as grass mowers, but no work has been done on the point this year.

Have you noticed the city is not very good at working with residents. I was unable to get a list of council members, addresses and contact numbers or email addresses. Preston explained that any contact with them was to be put in writing and delivered to city hall. Fortunately my councilman, Pitcher, has a listed number and will take phone calls. He has not been informed of the event by anyone at the city. The woman who was in charge of the C of C is a city employee.

Do you know how much people spend on their bikes? And, on this run? Possible, but highly unlikely the sponsors dropped the ball. Cairo city officials have a history of dropping the ball.
Missing Cairo

Saltillo, MS

#13 Jul 1, 2008
Am I wrong or was this Preston Ewing person elected to be City Treasurer? Unless he is the mayor or an elected official, I don't believe he has any more standing than the City Clerk and is, in fact, merely on an equal standing with that position. If you have business with the City Clerk, just tell him that you will ask for him if he is needed.

When did the treasurer began to occupy a full time office at Cairo City Hall?

I suppose it might be good to obtain a written copy describing the duties of each office. It should be readily available to anyone making such a request.
Missing Cairo

Saltillo, MS

#14 Jul 1, 2008
thought you might like to see this from the Bicycle Illinois web site. Looks like they were the ones to make the decision not to notify Cairo. Notice the sentence near the bottom of the page.

http://www.bicycleillinois.com/bicycleillinoi...
sam

United States

#15 Jul 2, 2008
They prefer larger towns that have more facilities for their bikers. Makes sense.
New Cairoite

Highwood, IL

#16 Jul 2, 2008
Missing Cairo wrote:
Am I wrong or was this Preston Ewing person elected to be City Treasurer? Unless he is the mayor or an elected official, I don't believe he has any more standing than the City Clerk and is, in fact, merely on an equal standing with that position. If you have business with the City Clerk, just tell him that you will ask for him if he is needed.
When did the treasurer began to occupy a full time office at Cairo City Hall?
I suppose it might be good to obtain a written copy describing the duties of each office. It should be readily available to anyone making such a request.
The treasurer is appointed like the police chief. But then, so is the city clerk. Why does one get the impression they are not equals? I wonder what their duties are? Preston told me the bank recs were current; the clerk said they were not.

Let's take a moment and talk about our city clerk, Lorrie Hesselrode. She had read on Cairogate.com that I was going to go to the city to look at the CPU lease, that 33 year fixed dollar amount lease. So when I walked in and asked to see the lease, she growled, "Who are you?". Not even a "Good morning, how may I help you?". When I replied that it didn't matter who I was, that I was a taxpayer, she growled, "I know who you are. You can write anything you want because I know you are going to anyway" and stormed out of the room.

Not only does the treasurer have a full time office at city hall, someone posted on Cairogate that he was paid for several years he didn't occupy that office, I believe.

Yes, job descriptions should be available. But, they understand that they do not have to give them to us unless we go to court to get them and they count on the taxpayers not doing that.
New Cairoite

Highwood, IL

#17 Jul 2, 2008
Missing Cairo wrote:
thought you might like to see this from the Bicycle Illinois web site. Looks like they were the ones to make the decision not to notify Cairo. Notice the sentence near the bottom of the page.
http://www.bicycleillinois.com/bicycleillinoi...
I guess I am reading that differently than you are. "Not coordinating in town services" to me means they are not arranging lodging or meals in Cairo as part of the bike tour. Not, that they did not notify Cairo that the event was taking place.

Assuming they didn't, why didn't we know? Didn't I read that there is a southern Illinoisan tourism bureau? Wouldn't you expect the chamber would stay on top of what is taking place? The person who told me about it gets news off the internet of happenings within 25 miles of Cairo.
Missing Cairo

Pompano Beach, FL

#18 Jul 2, 2008
New Cairoite wrote:
<quoted text>
Yes, job descriptions should be available. But, they understand that they do not have to give them to us unless we go to court to get them and they count on the taxpayers not doing that.
Wouldn't the charter and by-laws be filed with the State of Illinois? As a matter of fact, those job descriptions are supposed to be public record. Any position requiring payment from monies levied against taxpayers is under obligation to said taxpayers. That's why there was a Boston Tea Party.
been-there

Cairo, IL

#19 Jul 2, 2008
Did Farris have a treasurer when he was Mayor? How much do they get paid? I thought the At Large commissioner Linda & Lorrie wrote the checks. Who all signs them?
New Cairoite

United States

#20 Jul 2, 2008
Missing Cairo, I have never been that involved with a local government before.

I have asked the city clerk, the treasurer and the payroll clerk for copies of the budget and have not been able to get one. I recall reading in the paper that the city clerk under Farris came right out and said they were not going to comply with the law re; FOIA requests. IL law does provide for recovery of legal fees if you have to go to court to force compliance.

They are counting on taxpayers not getting an attorney. Someone told me it would be difficult to find an attorney to sue them.

I just don't understand how much longer the state is going to allow them to not prepare financials. And, it is hard for me to believe ALL the council members are accepting it. I would expect one or two of them to do what is right.

I wonder if we can sue individual council members for negligence in Illinois.

This city needs an intervention of some sort. Quickly.

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