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Some local hunters came up empty handed Monday night after the Cairo City Council declined to lease them approximately 400 acres of city-owned property south of Cairo to bow hunt.
Bryan Johnson, 867 Bold Springs Rd., who is associated with Millsaps Training Facility, appeared before the mayor and council this week to make the case for his request.
Johnson said he was willing to pay the city $7.50 per acre for the first year and next year $10 per acre. He also indicated if the city was in agreement and he was enjoying hunting on the property, he would be interested in a long term lease, up to five years.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas said from the outset that he would not be interested in leasing the property for the purpose of hunting citing the city’s liability. Douglas said even if the council did approve leasing the property, it would be necessary to open it to everyone who wished to bid to lease the land.
The property Johnson is wishing to lease is part of the former sewer Land Application System. Currently, the city is growing trees on a large portion of the property, but also has a police shooting range on the property as well as a utility pole and transformer staging area.
Johnson said the city was more at risk by preventing the land from being used and unauthorized persons going on the property without permission.
“We are not talking about a tremendous amount of money but over five to 10 years it could add up to $20,000 to $40,000,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he was prepared to obtain liability insurance and that the city would be held harmless in the event of any incident. Councilman Douglas said regardless if legal action was taken the city would be a target.
City Attorney Thomas L. Lehman concurred. “The city would be a party as the landlord. The landlord would be hit whether liable or not,” Lehman said.
Johnson’s plan was for him and two or three of his “very close friends” to be the only ones allowed to hunt on the property.
Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton said that previously city employees had requested permission to hunt on the property and their request was denied.
Councilman Jerry Cox requested the city manager study the issue and bring back a recommendation to the council. Cox said if the city were to consider leasing the property it would have to be put out to bid for anyone interested.
With the hunting season ending early next year, Cox suggested it would be too late to advertise for bids and make a final decision this year.
Mayor Booker Gainor suggested the lease income might cover any of the city’s costs related to maintaining the property. “Our cost is minimal,” Addleton said.
Mayor Pro Tem Lannis Thornton said he agreed with the other members of the council and that if it were to be leased it should be opened to all interested and not a select group.
Johnson said what he had proposed to pay this year would provide the city $3,000 to $4,000 it could do something special with for city employees at Christmas or some other charitable cause. “It’s money you otherwise wouldn’t have you could do something good with,” Johnson said.
“I can’t see it happening this year,” Councilman Cox said.