On Tuesday night, the Bonne Terre Planning and Zoning Committee heard a presentation from Xcell Prison Health on plans for a halfway house at the old muffler shop on Benham Street.
Xcell Prison Health President of Long Term Psychiatric Management Dr. Junaid Syed said his company is applying for a halfway house project. He added it is a big project and right now there is one in Farmington.
“They have a project like this and it’s up for bid, so my company is bidding for the project and we wanted to bring it to the city of Bonne Terre,” said Syed. “It’s a great project and my experience is with psychiatric patients and a lot of people in prison have psychiatric problems.”
Syed said he was a chief psychiatrist for St. Louis County Prison when he started his profession and learned that because of their psychiatric problems they are re-incarcerated because there is no help.
“I thought if I am going to be involved, I will make a difference in the lives of these people,” said Syed. “The reason I picked this county is because you already have a prison here and this will bring 15 more jobs in to the area.”
Syed said they are going to invest $2.5 million and it will be a 10-year project and the city will benefit through taxes.
Committee Member Leroy Calvert asked where the city was going to get taxes from and Committee Chairman Leroy Mauler explained that the city was unique and doesn’t have a city property tax.
Mauler stressed the proposal letter had just been sent to Bonne Terre Police Chief Doug Calvert and that they wouldn’t be taking any action on it Tuesday.
Syed said he understood and if the committee had any questions, he wanted to answer them. He added he was told by the city to come in and introduce himself.
Committee Member Erik Schonhardt, who is also a council member, asked Syed if his company owned any other halfway houses.
“This would be our first, but I have the whole team who was running the halfway house in St. Louis,” said Syed. “They have 15 years of experience in doing this work and they are the ones who prepared the contract. I partnered with them because they knew me from the prison system and they knew working together was going to bring a change.”
Syed added he is primarily a nursing home psychiatrist and there are more than 100 nursing homes in the state of Missouri he provides services to, including ones in St. François County.
Schonhardt stressed his concern that in the letter it said there are 58 beds for men and seven beds for women, but the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) may change that if the need exceeds what is there.
“This is the maximum they have set, they say they are going to give us less, but this is the maximum amount of rooms they want,” said Syed. “That is why I have put the maximum number of beds.”
Committeeman Calvert asked if the area will be fenced in because the people are getting ready to be released from prison.
“They have completed their sentence and releasing them onto the streets doesn’t help them,” said Syed. “So we keep them for six months and we help them get a job. There are therapists and social workers there who work with those people and try to get them jobs. They help so they are able to reintegrate into society smoothly.”
Syed said they have to report and the federal government does not want them to put locks on anything. They are very strict with the rules. They have to report to their supervisors there and have to attend classes and therapy sessions.
Chief Calvert expressed his concerns about the estimated requirements of beds and the statement that they may change their original estimate. He also addressed the word usage of "inmate" in the letter.
“If I understand this letter correctly, these are still considered inmates,” said Chief Calvert. “It states inmates who are within a few months of release to a contractor operated RRC for transitional programming. These inmates have often been removed from the community for an extended periods of time.”
Syed said from his understanding from the discussion with the BOP, they will not release anybody who has not completed their sentence.
“My other question is, with all due respect, we are a very small police department and we are overtaxed now with shelters and things of that nature,” said Calvert. “We don’t work the Missouri State Prison out here. Whatever happens inside that prison, they work it.”
Calvert said if there is an issue in this facility, such as an assault, then his officers will get called in to work it.
Syed said they will have correctional officers in the building and they will take care of it.
Calvert asked if federally trained federal officers will be in the building. Syed said they are going to hire people who have experience in this, but they are not federal officers.
“I do not have the manpower for this,” stressed Calvert. “This police department has no ability whatsoever, logistically, to handle this. You are talking about 65 to 70 people into a small area. Putting my officers in that type of situation, if we have to go, how are we going to do it? If I only have two guys on the street, how can I handle it?”
Calvert said there is just no way, without adding two or three officers that they could support this type of facility safely. He said they just can’t provide them the service.
The committee asked Syed if he came in to get a feel for this before he submitted anything. He said he definitely did and if the city doesn’t want it, then it’s not going to happen.
Committee Member Greg Pope said in his personal opinion, he doesn’t think anybody will go for this project.
Mauler told Syed that he is more than welcome to go through the process and they aren’t going to dissuade him from doing that.
“It’s certainly your prerogative, but I don’t think you have any support from anyone present,” said Mauler. “I just want to set those expectations for you.”
Syed said if people don’t want it, then they don’t want it.
Volunteers at Faith Cowboy Church of Desloge are coming together to provide free food for the area through its new Heartland Caring and Sharing program.
The church had an opportunity to receive its first supply of fresh produce last week and spent Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. giving it away to anyone in need.
"We have an opportunity to get produce a couple of times a week and we just get it and bless the people of the community with it," Dean Wampler said. "We are based through Faith Cowboy Church and we are blessed to get a lot of product from Convoy of Hope."
According to their website, Convoy of Hope is a faith-based, nonprofit organization that has helped more than 80 million people around the world by providing food, water, emergency supplies, knowledge and opportunities.
"We have a couple warehouses that we pick the food up from over in Illinois and they may have 100 cases of this or 50 cases of this and there are other churches involved with it also and they get product as well," Wampler said. "It's a much bigger deal."
Wampler said one of the missions of Faith Cowboy Church is to spread caring and sharing throughout the Heartland and they wanted to branch off of that for the name.
"We are going to go with Heartland Caring and Sharing that way people will have something to tie it to on Facebook when they are looking," Wampler said. "It's all in great deal with what our pastor does for our church and for the community."
"We never know for sure what we are going to have," Wampler said. "We are a little bit new. We just picked up our first two shipments of it but we have been told by the place we pick up from that they don't have people who can pick up all the time and we are fortunate that we are able to go get it and do what we can do and bless the people with it."
The organization plans to pick different places throughout the St. Francois County area and to keep the community informed of locations through their Facebook page.
"We are already trying to figure out where we are going to be next weekend," Wampler said. "We never know for sure what we are going to have. We are just trying to do what God want us to do and to bless everyone we can."
The stand had items such as cauliflower, tomatoes, red peppers, jalapenos, onions, lettuce, and non produce items like granola bars, bread, mayonnaise and licorice.
Additional items are collected through Convoy of Hope and the church's bread ministry.
"This event will be weekly and our bread ministry we do every Monday," Wampler said. "Sometimes they will go up and bring back five or 10 thousand loaves of bread and spend the entire evening Monday and Tuesday delivering bread."
The church has been doing the bread ministry for a year and a half now and it distributes bread to other churches, food pantries, the women's shelter in Bonne Terre and several foster homes.
Wampler said that several thousand pounds of produce were on-hand Saturday and by noon they had already gone through a tremendous amount of it.
"This is our first time actually doing it like this," Wampler said. "We would get smaller portions in the past that we would distribute through the food pantry."
Any leftover produce is taken to a food pantry or any place in need.
Wampler said that there is no qualifications to get the free food. All you have to do is come and get it. He said that you don't have to be poor or in any particular situation to be in need.
"If they aren't having to spend money on lettuce and tomatoes it frees up some money for other things," Wampler said. "It's to the public and it is for anybody who is in need."
When asked if the group will continue to add more free food choices Wampler said, "It depends on God's plan and what he has laid out for us."
"We have a lot of men and women of the church that make this possible," Wampler said. "That's what it is all about - the team work. That's what gets the public aware and it makes a lot of difference."
"It is awesome you know because like I said it helps to get it out there and it (doesn't just) have to be here in St. Francois County," Wampler said. "If you are in Madison County, Iron County or anywhere around, we wanted to specify the Heartland because it reaches out around the area."
For more information about the Heartland Caring and Sharing program through Faith Cowboy Church, find them on Facebook.
The Madison County Commissioners approved the establishment of a Cherokee Pass Community Improvement District (CID) at their weekly County Commissioners meeting Monday.
During a public forum held in December, Attorney Nathan Bollinger, who is representing the project, briefly explained that the creation of the district is solely to create funds which can be used to fix the issue with the sewer system in Cherokee Pass.
“The CID for Cherokee Pass is not going to be the sewer district,” Bollinger said. “This is a funding mechanism. The CID has no authority to do anything except charge up to a 1 percent sales tax.”
The district has the authority to ask for the sales tax, but there will still have to be a ballot and a vote for the sales tax to be put into place.
“The whole purpose is to supplement the debt used to put in a sewage system,” Bollinger said.
“The DeGuire subdivision was given a violation notice that its lagoon was not meeting requirements,” Arthur Robbins said.
Robbins went on to say the immediate issue with the lagoon needed to be addressed and a grant was obtained in order to have engineering studies done to find the best solution.
“The best solution to the problem was a treatment system,” Robbins said.
In order to acquire the funding needed to install a system, several things needed to be done. The first was the creation of the CID to supplement the cost of the loan.
Bollinger said the CID will not be involved in the engineering of the project or any of the decisions involving its implementation. The purpose is to show the community's financial support of the project.
At the December forum, several members of the community filled the courtroom to voice their concerns and ask questions. Most of of those were about future phases of the project and the sewage system itself.
“The plans are preliminary," Tim Robbs with Taylor Engineering explained. "We haven’t gotten that far yet.”
“The water district is going to act as the sewer district,” Robbins said. “The only impact the CID will have is if you have a business within the CID you will have to charge a higher sales tax. The boundaries of the CID and the boundaries of the water district may not be the same.”
Several concerns about eminent domain were addressed in the public forum by Bollinger as he explained the CID will not have eminent domain authority.
“They’ve got the ground over there where they want it to go,” Robbins added.
Joann Stevens was present at the December meeting to show her support of the project saying, “I am very much for it because my house has no resale value at all. The banks won’t even finance it because it has no sewer system.”
The petition was signed by more than 50 percent of the owners per capita and by total amount of the assessed value of the total properties.
“We are for things that are going to improve the living conditions of people in Madison County. That is what we are here for, and I am for this project, because it will do that,” Presiding Commissioner Bob Mooney said. "I think this will be a real benefit to both the businesses and the residents of Cherokee Pass."
The district contains approximately 314 acres and is generally located in the Cherokee Pass area.
After extensive discussions and revisions of the initial petition to limit the power of the board, Mooney and Commissioner Larry Kemp approved the CID. Commissioner Tom Stephens recused himself from the decision due to owning property within the district.
The initial board of directors are appointed and will consist of Arthur Robbins, Donnie Mays, Darren Ellis, Marcia Spala and Joe Wengler.
A copy of the petition is available for review at the office of the Madison County Clerk during regular business hours.
Area law enforcement were seeking an area man after he led police on a second pursuit just days after one in Bonne Terre.
Dustin Parker, 29, of Bonne Terre, was wanted on several felony warrants and will be facing even more charges after he led police on a high-speed pursuit Monday afternoon.
On Tuesday, St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock said Parker is now in custody after Arkansas State Police picked him up.
“We just received word that he is in custody in Arkansas and they are sitting roadside with him as we speak,” said Bullock. “We will extradite him. He will have the opportunity to sign an extradition ...
“If he doesn’t (sign), then we will apply for a governor's warrant out of Arkansas and get him shipped back to us,” said Bullock. “This is how it is anytime they cross state line. The governor’s warrant is between our governor and their governor. It takes about 90 days, so it would be better if he just signed it to get it done.”
St. Francois County Lt. Randy Tate said an off-duty deputy positively identified Parker, who was driving an older model one-ton flatbed truck Monday afternoon and knew he had felony warrants.
“We had actually gotten into a pursuit with him the other night in Bonne Terre,” said Tate. “She called another officer, who was on duty, and he was in the area and was able to get over there and behind his vehicle.”
Tate said the deputy tried to initiate a stop outside of Park Hills and that was when Parker took off again.
St. Francois County Deputy Gary Lynn Gerstenschlager said the pursuit started on Davis Crossing Road and made a right onto Mitchell Road.
“He then took Mitchell to Old 8 and then made a right onto Maple Street off Old 8,” said Gerstenschlager. “He took Maple to Highway 8 and made a right heading towards Washington County. He took Highway 8 up to Route M, then all the way to Route BB.”
He said Parker then turned onto Old Irondale Road and took that to Highway 32. He went down to a right on Old Bismarck and took that to Route B.
“He then went back toward Highway 32 and made a left, he took Highway 32 to Oakwood Drive,” said Gerstenschlager. “They laid spikes strips on Highway 32 near Ellis Road as he was going towards Old Bismarck. That was why he turned onto Old Bismarck - to avoid the spike strips. Then when he got back on Highway 32 they laid the spike strips down again at Ellis Road and he went around them and avoided them.”
Gerstenschlager said on Oakwood Drive is a private lake with a private gate and he was evidently on the phone with someone and they opened it for him.
“We all got through the gate and followed him up to another private road where it dead-ended and he drove his truck into the woods,” said Gerstenschlager. “He must have not been able to get the truck to go any further, so he bailed and took off running.”
Tate reiterated that an individual was there to open the gate for him and got out of his way so he could get into the gated community.
“While officers were trying to catch him, they were dodging stuff,” said Tate. “When they were pursuing him there was stuff flying out of the back of the truck. He wasn’t actually throwing anything, it was stuff he was losing off the bed of the truck. The officers were dodging that and still trying to maintain themselves to get him pulled over.”
Tate said at one point he thought Parker tried to ram one of the officers who was trying to get ahead of him. Also, one of the items fell out and damaged two patrol cars.
“There was a can of blue paint that fell out and busted on the road getting on two or three of the cars,” Tate explained. “One car had two tires damaged.”
Gerstenschlager said he was the officer Parker tried to run off the road, not once, but twice. He said at the beginning of the pursuit on Mitchell Road he tried to get in front of him and Parker swerved trying to run him off the road.
“Then on Highway 32 just before we turned onto Oakwood, I was on the side of him trying to pass him and he was pushing me off the road,” said Gerstenschlager. “Fortunately he never made contact with my vehicle. I kept my distance from his vehicle. I never gave him an opportunity.”
Tate said when Parker bailed from the car he was ahead enough that the officers called in the K9, but before the K9 could find him he lost the trail because of the weather. He said they tried talking to the suspect's mother, because when he had jumped out of the vehicle he had a dog in there.
“We had to take custody of the animal to protect it and we released the animal to his mother,” said Tate. “We are also working on another case. We believe Parker stole a side-by-side a short distance from where the pursuit was earlier in the day. A neighbor tried stopping the individual because he knew it was the neighbor's side-by-side. He identified this kid again on it and he went and ditched it. I guess he called a buddy for a ride.”
Tate said when they got out there the side-by-side was abandoned in the middle of the road.
St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock said on March 2 they received a report on Makayla Curtis, 26, asking the department to check on her.
“She was not entered in as a missing person’s report,” said Bullock. “She is 26 years old and officers were requested to check the well-being on her.”
Bullock said the report is for someone to make contact with her to check on her well-being and make sure she is alright.
He added that since then the family came in and officers amended the report and she is now listed as a missing person.
“Originally they told the officer that she always running off and coming up missing,” Bullock said. “That is why it wasn’t a real big deal. They said it wasn’t unusual for her to disappear for two or three days. But now it’s been longer than that.”
A family member of Curtis posted on Facebook that she is mentally incompetent and unable to make decisions and that she has an appointed legal guardian. They also suggested that anyone who has assisted in her disappearance is subject to being charged with kidnapping.
Anyone with any information on Curtis’ whereabouts is asked to contact the sheriff’s department or local police to report her location.