Ritchie County to take over Cairo election duties

The Ritchie County Commission prepares to start its Thursday meeting at the Ritchie County Courthouse. (Photo by Chad Adkins)

HARRISVILLE — Cairo Mayor Gary Haugh asked the Ritchie County Commission on Thursday to incorporate the municipal election into the county’s May 2020 primary election process.

The main reason is so the county can take over the polling duties, Haugh said.

“We couldn’t hire enough workers,” he said.

A state regulation requires Haugh to hire only poll workers that live in Cairo. He said the lack of qualified applicants for city jobs is a problem felt in all areas of his local government.

“We’re lucky if we get five people for the city council,” he said.

The commission unanimously approved the measure to include Cairo’s municipal elections in the county election process.

The mayor also told the commission that a persistent problem at the city’s water tank is costing Cairo money. He said a failing electronically controlled valve is causing the tank, located near the entrance to North Bend State Park, to overfill.

When the tank gets too much water in it, Haugh said, water spills out of its overflow pipe onto the ground. If not noticed in time, the excess water flows down the hill and starts to flood a nearby road, he said.

“That’s how we usually find out about it,” said Haugh.

Haugh said the equipment is becoming antiquated, but the biggest problem is a lack of a reliable power source. After an uprooted tree knocked down the power lines to the tank, Haugh said, the city resorted to solar panels to power the equipment that signals when water should be put into the tank.

“Sometimes the batteries die or go bad,” he said.

Haugh said it would cost the city $80,000 to run power lines to the tank, but is still looking for other solutions.

Eric Shoemaker, chief water operator with the Hughes River Water Board, said there are measures being taken by his organization to update the equipment in its system.

“It’s a future plan for the water plant to update those circuit boards,” he said.

The mayor did present the commission with good news about the progress on the construction of the new bridge, which crosses the North Fork of the Hughes River in Cairo.

“The bridge is 72 days ahead of schedule,” he said.

He continued by saying the project, which began in the fall, should be completed by the end of August.

Chad Adkins can be reached at cadkins@newsandsentinel.com.