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Crowds at arena smallest in years

Mizzou Arena is bigger, newer and fancier than the Hearnes Center but still attracts smaller crowds.

Although the $75 million arena was heralded during its construction as a fresh start for an embattled men’s basketball program, turnout so far this season has been lower than any of the past five seasons played at the Hearnes Center. Average per-game attendance for the first 10 men’s basketball games of the 2003-04 season was 11,058. This year, it’s down to 8,827, the lowest average in six years.

Research groups join to fend off stem-cell ban

The leaders of four Missouri research institutions, including the University of Missouri system, are asking legislators to reject bills that would criminalize stem-cell research.

They said a ban on nuclear transfer — one type of stem-cell research — would undermine efforts to create economic growth based on life sciences, as well as limit Missourians’ access to first-rate health care.

State Farm’s consolidation works for one mobile family

Chris Coon’s family has moved eight times in the last 13 years, enough to deter most people from ever moving again. Yet, when the State Farm auto claims manager and his clan were offered a chance last summer to relocate to Columbia, they jumped all over it.

“Out of the offices in the central zone I don’t think State Farm could have picked a more family-oriented and culturally diverse and interesting place than Columbia,” Chris Coon said. “There is just something about this town.”

Go get ’em

Glenn Garrett walks down a moonlit path through the woods of Three Creeks Conservation Area, calming his dogs as he searches for the best spot to set them loose.

Once unleashed, the two redbone coonhounds bound into the darkness. Storm, 6, is a veteran. Her younger counterpart, Snuff, is also female and just 18 months old. For Snuff, this will be only her second season hunting raccoon.

City lists more roads for improvements

Additional proposals for road improvements in Columbia will be submitted to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission for approval when it meets on Jan. 14, said Jay Bestgen, planning engineer for District 5.

The proposals include work on Missouri 740, 163 and 763 and the I-70 Business Loop.

Engineering nets $1 million

The Ameren UE will donate $1 million to MU’s College of Engineering, it announced Wednesday.

“It strengthens education and helps ensure a new group of professionals will be ready and qualified to fill the positions required to keep Missouri in a leadership position among states,” Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said at the company’s St. Louis headquarters.

Way off target

Mel Chandler didn’t expect a huge demand for concealed-weapons permits after the state law took effect in March, and the numbers indicate he was right.

“They thought there’d be a lot of people applying for permits, but they thought there’d be gun fights in the streets, too,” said Chandler, who owns Second Amendment Gun Shop in Columbia. “And that didn’t happen, either.”

UM mum on SMSU changing its name

At least publicly, the University of Missouri system has stayed on the sidelines when it comes to changing names at state colleges and universities.

As Southwest Missouri State University tries once again to drop the “Southwest” from its name, UM system President Elson Floyd and the UM Board of Curators keep restating they have no official stance.

Caregivers: Alzheimer’s calls for flexibility

Be generous with hugs and be flexible. That’s the advice of experts for families who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia this season.

Although each person’s situation is unique, there are some general approaches to use that will help make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone.

Skidmore funeral draws crowd

MARYVILLE — Hundreds of mourners gathered Tuesday in this small northwestern Missouri farming community to bury a young woman who was strangled and whose baby was cut from her womb.

Bobbie Jo Stinnett, 23, of Skidmore was found by her mother Thursday in a pool of blood in her small home, her baby missing. A woman Stinnett knew from breeding and showing rat terrier dogs made a first court appearance Monday on a charge of kidnapping resulting in death.

Heat elements to melt snow from library steps

Ice and snow the past two winters made the Columbia Public Library’s main entrance steps slippery and dangerous. Beginning today, however, visitors will be able to use the steps worry-free.

Work began earlier this month to install a heat-element snow-melting system in the steps. Karl West, a construction worker for KCI Construction of St. Louis, expects the work to be done today.

Two ballfields to be built at fairgrounds

A $76,000 matching grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources will help create two baseball fields on the Boone County Fairgrounds.

Boone County will pitch in $50,000 from the fairgrounds’ insurance proceeds, and baseball organizations have pledged funds and labor to help build the fields. The total monetary amount that will go into the project is $146,000, and other groups plan to volunteer labor, Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin said Tuesday.

‘Laborvision’ debuts on CAT

Columbia Access Television has added the award-winning show “Laborvision” to its Wednesday night lineup.

“Laborvision” first aired in Columbia on Dec. 15 and is making its second appearance at 6 tonight on Channel 3.

Blunt OK with SMS name change

The latest tug in the war over a controversial name change came Monday when Gov.-elect Matt Blunt said he would support legislation to change the name of Southwest Missouri State University.

Comments by a Blunt spokesman came a few days after leaders of SMSU and the University of Missouri system met to discuss an SMSU proposal seeking the system’s support in changing SMSU’s name to Missouri State University.

City Council prolongs debate over Wal-Mart

Opponents of a Wal-Mart Supercenter at Fairview Road and Broadway will have to wait two more weeks for the City Council’s decision on whether to rezone the site for planned commercial use.

The council voted unanimously Monday night to approve an amendment proposed last week by the developers and schedule another hearing for the bill at its Jan. 3 meeting. The amendment removed seven acres in the northern part of the site from the zoning request, bringing the total to 23 acres. If approved, the development would include a Supercenter and other shops, as well as buffers and road projects to make it more palatable to neighbors.

Storm may bring snow for holiday

In the past 114 years, Columbians have enjoyed a white Christmas 28 times. Whether 2004 will be the 29th time remains anyone’s guess. However, cold weather will be a certainty for the end-of-the-week holiday.

Vince Acquaviva, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in St. Louis, said a storm developing in Texas will bring snow to Missouri. The weather service predicts snow will begin falling early Wednesday morning and continue until the evening. Although Acquaviva is forecasting a storm, he said Columbia wouldn’t see as much snow as its southern neighbors.

Digital trail leads to suspect in slaying

KANSAS CITY — In the end, it wasn’t a fingerprint or a blood spatter that led authorities to the woman suspected of strangling a mother-to-be and cutting the baby from her womb.

It was an 11-digit computer code.

Minimum wage won’t pay rent

WASHINGTON — In only four of the nation’s 3,066 counties can someone working full-time and earning federal minimum wage afford to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment, an advocacy group on low-income housing reported Monday.

A two-bedroom rental is even more of a burden — the typical worker must earn at least $15.37 an hour to pay rent and utilities, the National Low Income Housing Coalition said in its annual “Out of Reach” report. That’s nearly three times the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.

Making spirits bright

As the blue couch inside the small office of A Call To Serve International overflows with donated stuffed animals, two women struggle to get through the door with more bundles of toys to add to the growing collection.

Boxes line the floors and walls of the Columbia office, but as Trish Blair, the director of the local ACTS International, said, they are going to need more.

Taxpayers can now pay online

Paying property taxes is never the most popular aspect of the holiday season, but Boone County Collector of Revenue Pat Lensmeyer is trying to make the experience painless. This is the first tax season in which taxpayers have the option of paying property taxes online.

The initiative began two years ago when Lensmeyer learned about online tax collection while attending a national conference of county tax collectors, treasurers and finance officers. After working out the bugs, the online system officially became available last summer.

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