Council picks firm for city manager hunt

At a meeting Monday night, the Columbia City Council:

Hired the PAR Group to be the consulting firm to help the council hire a new city manager. The council received proposals from eight firms, interviewed three and voted Monday between the Mercer Group and the PAR Group.

Poppy gallery ready to bloom

Any attempt to catch an early glimpse of the new business on the south side of Broadway, near Tenth Street, is frustrated by butcher paper painted with brightly colored flowers covering the windows.

The only clue to passers-by of what’s to come are small white block letters announcing Poppy Fine Art, the first new art gallery to open in Columbia in several years. It is set to open Sept. 22.

New law raises sign language’s status

When Stephanie Logan received a call from a spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Blunt recently, she thought it was another practical joke. The previous day, her office had received a call from “John, from Blunt’s office.”

That call didn’t surprise Logan; she previously served on the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a group often in contact with state government, before becoming MU’s only American Sign Language instructor. But her co-worker, interpreting for Logan, noticed “John” sounded a lot like Logan’s husband, a man fond of practical jokes.

Hurled object causes car crash

A 31-year-old Columbia man was arrested Sunday in connection with an incident in which a blunt object was thrown through a car window, striking a man in the face and knocking him unconscious, Boone County Sheriff’s detectives said.

George B. James of 5301 St. Charles Road was arrested on suspicion of first-degree assault, armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence. He was being held Monday afternoon on $104,500 bond. A first-degree assault charge is a Class A felony and carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

Neighborhood associations give residents a voice

A mile east of Columbia, at the end of what was once a winding gravel road, lies a quiet, country neighborhood filled with history.

Since 1955, Shepherd Hills neighborhood, a 40-acre area that includes a 10-acre park, is a place where 14 families have lived and enjoyed a rural lifestyle. Despite rampant development and the construction of U.S. 63, residents say the only thing that has really changed is the traffic, which can be burdensome during the peak hours of the day.

Church and books must go together

Even though I enjoy historical fiction, I wasn’t particularly anxious to read Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” and would probably never have rushed out and bought a copy. I had heard the book discussed several times by Christians and non-Christians and had, quite frankly, gotten a little bored with the comments. I do not like listening to people speak who feel that they are privy to the mind of God. However, a friend shared her copy with me and I took the plunge. The book was clearly advertised as a “novel” and as such, I found it to be entertaining and a real page-turner. I found it to be cleverly written and the subject matter to be fascinating.

When I mentioned a few days later that I had completed the book, another friend provided me with a copy of “Breaking the Da Vinci Code” by Darrell L. Bock. Bock, a professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, undertook the work of separating the facts from the fiction contained within the novel. Bock’s book addressed the historical errors one by one and provided a credible source for accurate information for readers interested in pursuing the subject.

Abortion foes want political car plate

JEFFERSON CITY — Denied in the Capitol, some abortion foes are taking advantage of a relatively new state law to try to create a “Choose Life” license plate without needing approval of the full legislature or the governor.

The slogan is one of several proposed specialty plates submitted to the Department of Revenue by nonprofit groups willing to fork over $5,000 and line up the first 200 purchasers of the plates.

Science teachers use care when teaching ‘e-word’

The evolution unit at Rock Bridge High School will take two weeks. The controversy discussion will wrap up in 20 minutes. The impact will be confounded by other, arguably more influential factors: It’s 7:50 in the morning, the homework is due, mechanical pencils are scratching in symphony, and it’s time to pass papers to the front.

The students in Kerri Graham’s sophomore biology class habitually slump into their seats, apparently unfazed that they are at the bull’s-eye of the intelligent design movement, whose “teach the controversy” slogan intends to rile up high school classrooms just like this one. Intelligent design theorists contend that a purposeful creator is responsible for the beginning and diversification of life on the planet. But these sleepy teenagers care more about reaching driving age than the age of the Earth.

Reserves lend relief to paid officers

“Some belong to the Rotary Club, some to Kiwanis, but my idea of community service is law enforcement,” said Chuck Wilson, a reserve sergeant for the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

Wilson, 60, has worked as a reserve officer ever since former Sheriff Ted Boehm started the program about 20 years ago.

Equine exercise: Good for body and soul

Nellie Owen arrives 45 minutes before her Friday afternoon riding class begins. She likes coming early, she says. It’s her time to smell the horses.

She sits by the fence to watch an earlier class that’s still in session. Each horse that passes in front of her she greets like an old friend.

MU history professor’s book shows Henry Ford’s influence

Although most people associate Henry Ford with the assembly line and the Model T, MU history professor Steven Watts wanted his book to be about more than that. He wanted to convey that Ford’s mass production techniques encouraged the idea of consumer societies and the perception of America as the land of opportunity.

“The People’s Tycoon: Henry Ford and The American Century,” published by Knopf, is due to come out Aug. 9.

Two sexual assaults reported Saturday

Columbia police are investigating two sexual assaults that occurred in central Columbia within hours of each other early Saturday.

Police said a woman was sexually assaulted and robbed in her home in the 100 block of West Ash Street at around 4:20 a.m. Saturday after a man forced entry through the front door.

Gunshots are fired outside nightclub

Gunfire was reported near a nightclub in north central Columbia early Saturday after a fight broke out between several people.

Columbia police were responding to a report of people fighting outside the Silhouette Nightclub, 3405 Clark Lane, when shots were fired, police Sgt. John Worden said.

Man found wounded by single gunshot

An adult Columbia man received a single gunshot wound to the side of the leg Sunday night. Columbia Police officers found the victim in the 2700 block of Quail Drive after being dispatched at 5:54 p.m.

Police declined to give the victim’s name. Sgt. Brian Richenberger said evidence at the scene showed signs that the wound may have been accidentally self-inflicted.

Prosecutor looks for mistakes in old cases

ST. LOUIS — After landing a job at a prestigious law firm, Jennifer Joyce was making good money with an office overlooking the Gateway Arch — and was miserable.

So, she took a job at half the pay as an assistant prosecutor, sharing a dingy office with three other lawyers and one computer.

Crop losses mounting

Last Tuesday’s rainfall of less than half an inch in most of Boone County briefly interrupted a 43-day dry spell. But with no significant rainfall predicted in the foreseeable future and temperatures in the 90s expected all week, Boone County farmers’ crop yield losses are mounting.

Efforts to assess the potential economic fallout are in early stages. It is too soon to say what type of assistance farmers might get or whether consumers will feel the effects of the drought in their pocketbooks.

City health coverage gets checkup

Rising health-care costs have forced the city to make several changes to its 2006 health insurance plan. The changes include a 20 percent increase in premiums and $810,000 in cost-saving measures. An additional $500,000 from the general fund will be transferred to cover the remaining costs.

Margrace Buckler, the city’s human resource director, called the changes “make-up money.”

Puppy stolen from parked car

A woman who recently moved to Columbia discovered her puppy was missing Thursday evening when she returned to her car after a quick trip to the Gerbes supermarket on Paris Road.

Ciera Martin said she left her two dogs in her car with the windows rolled down while she went into the store for 10 minutes. It was a relatively cool 84 degrees, but still far too hot to have the windows up and two dogs inside. When she returned, the younger of the two dogs was gone.

MU center tries to fend off crop-killing fungus

PORTAGEVILLE — The threat of an easily transmittable fungus has forced soybean researchers in Missouri’s Bootheel region to go into high gear.

Allen Wrather and Grover Shannon, at MU’s far-flung Delta Research Center, are among those trying to find a way to divert the potentially devastating Asian soybean rust from Missouri’s leading crop.

Fitness films focus on wellness

What pops in your mind when you think of an exercise video? The still-popular “Jane Fonda Workout Video for Exercise” with Fonda working out in her aerobics room and counting “one, two, three and four” out loud?

If so, the “Fitness and Wellness for a Lifetime” video series created by Stephen Ball would give you a different take on exercise videos.