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Start of Lent brings time of deep faith

From dawn until evening today, at churches across Columbia and Boone County, hundreds of residents will have their foreheads marked with ashes in the sign of the cross. The ashes, an age-old sign of repentance, are derived from the celebratory branches handed out at the last year’s Palm Sunday service.

Ash Wednesday begins a 40-day period of repentance from sin known as Lent. The Lenten season — the word comes from an Old English term meaning lengthening of light or spring — began in the church’s infancy as a period to prepare believers to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.

City getting new water main

Most Columbia residents should never notice the expansion of their water delivery services. Two homeowners, however, will literally see the expansion in their back yards.

Columbia is expanding the McBaine Water Treatment Plant and adding a 21,600-foot water main. These measures are the result of a $28.3 million bond issue approved by voters on Nov. 4, 2003.

County shells out money for land

Boone County is paying high dollar for parts of downtown as the value of property in The District increases.

“There have been more real estate sales in The District in the past two years than there have been in the past 10 years,” Boone County Assessor Tom Schauwecker said.

Small cities weigh tax incentives

The largest private employer in Ashland is Moser’s grocery store, which employs 30 people. The big boss in Hallsville is Mid-State Petroleum, with 10 employees, while in Centralia it’s A.B. Chance Co. For the past 100 years, one out of four people in town worked for the company.

Now, smaller cities in Boone County are taking cautious steps to lure more capital. Chapter 100 bonds, the first tax-incentive plan to gain steam in Boone County, are changing the way of doing business in mid-Missouri.

Workers’ comp bill revives

JEFFERSON CITY — Informal negotiations between a handful of Senate Republicans and Democrats will probably push a bill to reduce the state worker’s compensation program to the floor today.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Loudon, R-St. Louis County, said the talks came at the request of the governor’s office and were aimed at paving the way for passage of a bill that would restrict worker’s compensation claims to injuries in which work was the “prevailing cause” and exempt injuries of an unknown cause and injuries that result from a preexisting condition.

Anti-smoking group gets board’s backing

Columbia took another step toward making all public places smoke-free Tuesday night.

After a presentation by the Boone County Coalition for Tobacco Concerns, the Boone County/Columbia Board of Health voted unanimously to ask the Columbia City Council for approval to look into this issue further.

Blunt tells agencies to account for homeland security spending

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Matt Blunt has ordered all state agencies to provide detailed analyses of federal homeland security funds received and how those funds are being spent.

Missouri received $125 million in homeland security grants from the federal government in 2003 and 2004. Federal law requires states to obligate 80 percent of the funds to local governments within 45 days of receipt. Missouri has spent only $20 million of its allotted amount in the last two years.

Police think robberies are linked

Columbia police are looking for a man they think is connected with three robberies and an attempted robbery reported Tuesday.

The four incidents took place over a seven-hour span, beginning at 9:53 a.m. at Hitt and Locust streets and ending in the parking lot of Schnucks Supermarket, 1400 Forum Blvd. Police said the crimes appear to have been committed by the same individual, and the case has been turned over to the Major Crimes Unit of the Columbia Police Department.

Master Blaster

Underneath dried mud and white limestone residue, Randy Backes’ knuckles were pink from the cold, his yellow work gloves poked out of his sweatshirt pocket under Carhartt coveralls.

When he’s wiring up a blasting site, Backes would rather fill his pockets with gloves than bad luck.

Council OKs Bear Creek

A rezoning request to make room for Bear Creek Village, touted as an environmentally conscious neighborhood, won the unanimous approval of the Columbia City Council on Monday night.

The owner of the land, Andrew Guti, and residents of the area, spoke favorably of the planned development at the meeting, describing the plans as the best way to build in this area.

Chemical makes meth blush

A new product that stains methamphetamine users’ skin is being touted as the latest tool in Missouri’s efforts against the drug.

But questions remain about the environmental safety of the compound and whether evidence of its effects will be viable in court.

Springfield lawmaker would abolish tenure

JEFFERSON CITY — Professors looking to get on the tenure track in Missouri could be derailed by a bill in the state legislature.

Rep. Mark Wright, R-Springfield, has introduced legislation that would abolish the tenure system at all state universities.

2 Pulitzer shareholders sue over buyout

ST. LOUIS — Two Pulitzer Inc. shareholders are suing the St. Louis-based publishing company, seeking to unhinge its planned buyout by Lee Enterprises Inc. on claims that the $1.46 billion deal is unfair to Pulitzer stockholders.

Pulitzer, publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Arizona Daily Star, disclosed the Delaware lawsuits in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, three days after announcement of the deal unanimously approved by the boards of both companies.

Missouri balks at river proposal

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Gov. Mike Rounds’ suggestion to tinker with the downstream navigation season as a means of saving water in the drought-affected Missouri River reservoirs was met with criticism from Missouri’s representation during a Monday conference.

At a meeting of Missouri River states, Rounds proposed changing how and when water is released for the downstream barge industry to keep more in the reservoirs and to avoid a “navigational preclude” that’s part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ master manual for operating the dams and reservoirs.

Feedback is sought on education centers

The U.S. Department of Education is asking the public to provide feedback on 20 new regional technical assistance centers created to help educators carry out the policies of No Child Left Behind, the federal act that mandates students meet specific progress goals each year.

David Thomas, spokesman for the department, said it is seeking input from the public to determine specific areas in which educators and administrators need help.

Cultural history always important

Looking across at the sloppy piles of paper lining my work table, it’s hard to forget that it is tax time. I think the whole income tax deal would be a lot simpler if we could just take our paperwork to the people at the Internal Revenue Service and let them figure it out. On the other hand, they would probably have such stringent rules and regulations on types of paper and number of sheets that they would accept, it would be a more complicated procedure than it already is.

Fortunately, for me, tax time coincides with Black History Month, a time when I’m usually busy with enough projects that I don’t have the time or the energy to give the IRS the full measure of dread it deserves. This year is no exception.

Anti-smoking plan on agenda

The bandwagon is starting to get crowded as more cities and even entire states continue to adopt stricter rules on where people can smoke. Columbia is no exception, as progress toward such a proposal moves forward.

At 5:30 p.m. today, the Columbia/Boone County Board of Health will hold its monthly meeting. The agenda includes a presentation by the Boone County Coalition for Tobacco Concerns, which will publicly unveil its proposed no-smoking ordinance for indoor public spaces for the first time.

A county with charm

Ruth Reynolds remembers when shopping at the Fulton town square was a countywide event.

“It was a big deal. People would come from all over the county every Saturday,” said Reynolds, a native of Fulton in Callaway County. “We would sit on the main street eating ice cream as our parents would do their shopping and catch up with each other.”

For some, fear rose with crime in January

Columbia started the new year with the stabbing of two men — one fatally — at a convenience store, the slaying of an MU microbiologist and the shooting of two police officers. Four home invasions, several muggings and incidents of gunshots fired into homes added to January’s flurry of crimes.

Behind the headlines and ongoing investigations are hard numbers that prove Columbia has never had so many homicides this early in the year. Within one month, Columbia’s homicide rate already surpassed the total homicides reported each year from 2002 to 2004, according to Missouri Uniform Crime Report data.

Farmers’ Market faces deadline

With its 25th anniversary approaching, the clock is ticking for the Columbia Farmers’ Market to find a permanent home.

The nonprofit group that oversees the market has until April 1 to begin construction or site preparations on such a project. Failure to begin by that date would violate the group’s 30-year lease with the city of Columbia, in which case the city could reclaim control of the land. The City Council must approve alterations to the lease.

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