An air of optimism surrounds the advent of new commercial air service at Columbia Regional Airport, where Mesaba Airlines, a subsidiary of Northwest Airlines, began providing daily flights to and from Memphis International Airport on Tuesday. Fans of the service, which the federal government will subsidize to the tune of $2.2 million per year, say the increased connectivity passengers can get at Memphis and the relative comfort of the new planes bodes well for Mesaba. But local experts also say two keys to Mesaba's long-term success will be affordable fares and regional marketing. Representatives of Fulton and Jefferson City attended an open house at the airport on Tuesday, and officials in the Lake of the Ozarks area also are involved in promoting the flights.
Flying to Memphis is the latest strategy in the city's attempt to resurrect commercial flights at Columbia Regional, where passenger numbers have languished over the past several years. Columbians apparently felt it was either easier or cheaper to drive or take a shuttle to the St. Louis and Kansas City airports, where previous airlines have flown from Columbia. Mesaba predicts it will serve more than 14,000 passengers per year under its contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Do flights to Memphis interest you? Why or why not?
Boxing in fans
Fans of the MU football Tigers will have to watch what they bring into Memorial Stadium for home games this season. The MU Athletics Department has decided it will limit them to bags that are roughly the size of the area beneath the stadium's seats.
The idea is to keep one fan's items from encroaching on another's space, a problem that many people have apparently filed complaints about. "Sizing boxes" at entrances to the stadium will help attendants determine whether fans are carrying in too much. Bag checkers also will conduct visual inspections to ensure no one is bringing in prohibited items. Express lines will be available for those who bring nothing into the games.
The new restrictions come on top of existing rules against bringing umbrellas, strollers and other items into the stadium that might interfere with other fans' enjoyment. As the Tigers become better and more popular, space in the stadium will be at a premium, and the Athletics Department is striving to provide as enjoyable an experience as possible.
Are Memorial Stadium's policies becoming too restrictive, or are there more rules the Athletics Department should enact?
Jennings Premium Meats of New Franklin has decided to get out of the deer butchering business, saying that the hassle of handling hundreds of deer carcasses during the firearms hunting season simply isn't worth it and that the other aspects of their business are perfectly profitable enough. Jennings partner Dale Jennings is glad to be rid of the service. Missing it, he said, "would be kind of like missing a rotten tooth."
The decision at Jennings, however, further limits the options of hunters who'd rather not pick up the knives and butcher their own deer. Other than seasonal operations, Jennings was the closest available processor for Columbia-area hunters. Meanwhile, Tune's locker in Centralia is also having trouble: its freezer is out, and it will take several weeks to install another one.
Jennings will still process deer meat that already has been butchered, converting it into summer sausage and other tasty snacks. But its days of sending carcasses through a never-ending assembly line are over. Hunters will have to look elsewhere for someone to do the most labor-intensive part of the job.
What do you think of Jennings' decision to stop processing deer? Is the business ending a valuable community service?
Columbia Public Schools by all accounts got off to a smooth start to the new school year on Thursday, when more than 17,300 students reported to classes, up by more than 200 from last year. Interim Superintendent Jim Ritter called it one of the smoothest opening days he had ever experienced. That's saying something, given that Ritter has spent a total of 22 years with the district.
During a year that has witnessed hot debate about school district issues - the selection of a site for the new high school, a proposed 54-cent increase in the property tax levy, the leadership of outgoing Superintendent Phyllis Chase - it can sometimes be difficult to keep our eye on the prize. When students across the district return to school, meet their teachers, get reacquainted with friends and sit down to learn their lessons for the year, we get a good reminder of what public schools are all about. They should be less about politics and more about our children and their education.
Take a moment to reflect on the good things that happen in Columbia Public Schools.
Paying to play
So, you like to play softball in the summer, eh? It's a good way to get in some exercise, some competition and some camaraderie. And it isn't that expensive. Join the right team on the right night and you might spend around $3 a game in a city league at Rainbow Softball Complex.
Not for long. The cost of playing softball, or just about any other sport for which the city has leagues, will soon rise significantly if the Columbia City Council approves an array of recreational fee increases as part of the fiscal 2009 budget.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said the city has no choice. Revenue produced by recreational activities - whether golf or kickball or swimming or workouts at the ARC - simply isn't keeping pace with costs. This year's increases, he warns, might be the first of many.
It's ironic that a parks department heavily supported by sales taxes is having so much trouble staying afloat. But much of the tax revenue dedicated to parks is earmarked for park development and the purchase of more park land.
Does the city have its priorities straight? Which is more important: keeping fees low or continuing to expand the city's parks and recreation offerings?