Wednesday, December 20, 2006

TOP STORY >>Council in Cabot rebuffs shelter

Leader staff writer

Lonoke County Safe Haven won’t get a house in Cabot anytime soon for victims of domestic violence since the city council voted Monday night to not give the special use permit that would have made the project possible. The council is often divided on important issues, but it voted unanimously against the shelter. Council members and the mayor said they had been deluged with calls from residents who were opposed to turning the house at 111 S. Jackson Street into a shelter. The residents were armed with a petition containing 77 signatures of residents in the neighborhood and others who said they didn’t want the shelter in any neighborhood in Cabot.

Some of those residents spoke during the council meeting Monday night saying essentially the same things they had said during two meetings of the planning commission, which approved the special use permit earlier this month. They are not opposed to a shelter for battered women and their children, but they don’t want it in their neighborhoods. “I’m quite certain these ladies in the shelter are going to be protected,” Helen Anderson told the council in response to assurances from shelter proponents that security measures would be in place and that violence was not likely. “If there’s any problem it will be with the neighbors.”

Anderson said she would be unable to sleep at night for thinking about violent men lurking in her bushes trying to catch a glimpse of their wives and girlfriends. “I want to feel safe in my home,” she said. J.M. Park, the retired banker who serves as the chairman of Lonoke County Safe Haven, Inc., countered that argument. “I can see how a woman who’s had her face knocked half off – and maybe her kids kicked around too – might also lose some sleep,” Park said. “I can see where this is going tonight, down the tubes.”

Lonoke County Safe Haven has been in operation for about two years. Brenda Reynolds, the organization’s executive director, told the council that 283 women filed orders of protection last year in Lonoke County and that at least one or two women contact the organization every day trying to get out of dangerous situations. She said the women needed a shelter close to home because the courts are there and that’s where they work and where their children go to school.

Mary Ann Taft, a volunteer with the organization who has also worked in shelters, told the council that the men who batter women are cowards who are not interested in hurting anyone but the women in their lives. “If not in our neighborhood, then where?” Taft asked. In other business, the council passed a resolution continuing the current city budget into 2007. Such resolutions are common, especially when a new mayor is taking over.

The council also unanimously passed an ordinance requiring “peddlers, solicitors and vendors” to register with the city clerk.
The ordinance was drafted after a resident complained about members of a Texas church with no ties to the community soliciting money from motorists. City Attorney Clint McGue, who drafted the document, said it was not possible to exclude some groups from the ordinance. To rein in out-of-state churches, all organizations including the Girl Scouts and the Salvation Army will have to register.

The council also unanimously passed resolutions recognizing the mayor and the six council members who will not return in January 2007. Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh has served four years; Alderman Bob Duke, 30 years, Alderman James Glenn, 20 years, Alderman David Polantz, eight years; Alderman Odis Waymack, six years, Alderman Patrick Hutton, four years; and Alderman Jerry Stephens, two years.