In a post-Sept. 11 appreciation for police and firefighters, the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce has awarded its Commitment to Excellence Award to the city's police and fire departments, making it the first time that the accolade has been bestowed on groups that aren't involved in manufacturing.
"Business could not survive without these groups," chamber president and CEO John Mehner said after the trophy was presented. "Not to mention that they qualify under the criteria of longevity, significant economic impact and satisfaction from the people they serve. No one can take issue with who's getting the award this year."
Mehner said the chamber overwhelmingly decided the departments were worthy of the award after deciding last year they wanted to start giving it to service groups as well as manufacturers. The award was presented Friday night at the Industry Appreciation Dinner at the Show Me Center.
The chamber now will begin rotating the award, one year giving it to a manufacturer and to a service group the next. Service groups include retail, nonprofit and governmental services, Mehner said.
"Service is a significant part of our economy," Mehner said. "The service industry provides a big chunk of our jobs, and it's jobs that fuel the economy."
The police department has a total annual budget of $4.7 million, and $3.8 million of that comes in payroll. That payroll money is spent in the community, which also helps the economy. The fire department has an annual budget of $3.3 million budget, of which $2.5 million is in payroll.
"We've been getting a lot of recognition from the community in the past year, letters from high schools, and phone calls from people telling us they appreciate us," said interim fire chief Mark Hasheider, who accepted the award for his department. "But honestly, this tops them all. It's an honor to be recognized by the city's business leaders."
Unlike other occupations, Hasheider said police officers and firefighters sometimes are asked to put themselves in dangerous situations.
"Every day, very easily we could be asked to put our lives on the line," he said. "There aren't a lot of jobs that require that of you."
Lt. John Davis, auxiliary service division commander for the police department, said he also was honored for his department.
"We try to form partnerships with the business community and work with them," he said. "The vast majority of the time we deal with people, it's a negative situation, whether they've been robbed or arrested. That's the nature of the beast, but it's nice for a positive note every now and then."
Mehner said giving this award to the police and fire department isn't just a gesture after Sept. 11.
"Absolutely not," he said. "No one can deny they deserve the award, not only based on their job performance, but the economic impact they have on the community. The chamber membership wanted to do this and these two departments are fitting recipients. They touch our lives every day."
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