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In a darkened room lit only by candles, John Hahn cleared away all distractions to create a safe and quiet space for his wife, Jessica, to give birth to their son, Riley.

Away from a fast-paced hospital with its monitors and IV tubes, the Columbia couple opted for the comfort of their home to deliver their second child. After four hours of labor — most spent in a bathtub that only hours before had been cluttered with toddler bath toys — Jessica Hahn, 32, welcomed Riley into the world with the help of a birth assistant. A doctor arrived about a half-hour before full dilation to finish the delivery.

Devoted Teaching

Sister Nadine Flott awakes before 6 a.m. each day and says her prayers in the quiet of the pre-dawn light that filters through her blinds. She arrives at St. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Boonville about an hour later, taking her customary post at the school’s side door to greet each arriving student, most of them by name. “Here comes my best friend,” Sister Nadine hails first-grader Morgan Browning.

“No jacket, today?” she asks another student who is wearing short sleeves on a chilly March morning. “Aren’t you going to be cold during recess?”

House panel rejects state schools plan

JEFFERSON CITY — A plan to change the state’s school foundation formula suffered a significant setback Thursday with a House committee’s vote to defeat the proposal.

“What you saw here was a rural versus urban divide,” said Rep. Brian Baker, R-Belton and chairman of the House Special Committee on Education Funding.

Firings cause confusion for department

Missouri State Fire Marshal William Farr resigned earlier this month, and the Missouri Department of Public Safety now lacks directors for two of its divisions.

Farr resigned April 15, four days before Keith Fuller, director of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control, and his deputy, Lori Baskins, were fired after an internal investigation. Public Safety spokeswoman Terri Durdaller said Farr was not under investigation when he left, but she would not say more about his departure.

Porter’s legacy goes beyond the arts

Mary Nell Porter’s friends have a daunting set of tasks.

They are trying to figure out a woman who was involved in everything but who kept each part separate. They are trying to pinpoint telling moments of a woman who was always organizing her next activity.

Airport’s future up in the air

Don’t call Columbia Regional Airport to ask when it’s closing down. Airport Superintendent Bill Boston is getting a bit tired of handling those calls.

But you can’t blame people for being concerned. The number of passengers flying through the airport annually has declined from 41,000 in 1994 to 18,000 in 2004. That statistic is alarming even for airport administrators, who face increasing competition from shuttle services such as MO-X and blame potential passengers’ misperceptions about service at Columbia Regional.

Tour offers a taste of updated kitchens

Five state-of-the-art Columbia kitchens will be open Sunday on the Kitchens in Bloom Home Tour. The tour is a fund-raising event for the Boone County Council on Aging.

“The kitchens are fabulous,” said council member Stephanie Panagos said. “They’re dream kitchens that some of us just wish we could have.”

Vaccination bill passes committee

JEFFERSON CITY — After several changes, the House Health Care Policy Committee on Wednesday brought mercury-free vaccinations one step closer to law.

The bill now awaits debate on the House floor.

Student queried about scuffle

A representative of the MU Office of Administrative Affairs interviewed a University of Kansas student Thursday who says he was assaulted by MU Police Chief Jack Watring during a scuffle over a sign at a March 6 basketball game at Mizzou Arena.

Chris Kaufman said he spoke with Lisa Wimmenauer, associate director for Administrative Affairs, in a private meeting. She also interviewed his friends Christian Green and Rich Littrell, who were with him at the game.

Center to kick off public fund raising

After nearly 14 years in the making, the Health Adventure Center will make its final push for the money it needs to open next year.

The interactive health-education center will kick off its community campaign on May 22. To date, the center has raised more than $3.7 million of its $5.2 million goal, said campaign spokeswoman Wendy Knorr. The center’s board of directors and its capital campaign committee have been raising cash for the past 18 months, she said. Most of the money has come from larger foundations and organizations.

Fee office in Columbia to transfer to local owner

The state-owned Columbia branch office of the Missouri Department of Revenue will shift to the private ownership of Columbia businessman Scott Atkins on Monday.

Atkins owns Columbia-based Tom Atkins Investments, which is named for his father. Both men are also involved in a series of enterprises ranging from investment banking to real estate development. Gov. Matt Blunt granted Scott Atkins a contract to operate the fee office as part of a larger promise he made during his State of the State Address to eliminate the revenue department’s 11 branch offices around the state.

Protester gets support

Rita Preckshot is used to standing alone every Wednesday afternoon at the corner of Broadway and Providence Road. As a group Columbia residents gather there every week to oppose the war in Iraq, Preckshot stands just south of the intersection holding an American flag to show her support for the troops.

On Wednesday, Preckshot was not alone, as she was joined by 15 new supporters, who came not only to support her position, but also her presence as well.

Chase breaks silence about Brotzman

Columbia Public School Superintendent Phyllis Chase said she was assured by Rock Bridge High School principal Bruce Brotzman in early November that an allegation of sexual misconduct against him was false, and that she decided her students and staff were not at risk.

“Let me assure you, there was no latitude on the part of this organization when it comes to the safety of staff or students,” Chase said in her first public comments since Brotzman resigned. “And at this point, from the information that I had, the safety of staff and students was never an issue.”

Group tries to save historic bridge

Advocates for saving the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge in Boonville said they will continue to fight for the bridge, despite Monday’s announcement that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources will turn over the bridge rights to Union Pacific.

“We are not done fighting. They will have to drag us off the bridge,” said Cheryl Lixey, a member of the Save the Bridge steering committee.

Transcript of interview with Superintendent of Schools Phyllis Chase

Hickman principal chosen

Hickman High School is getting a new leader, a man known for stretching a buck and still creating innovative programs.

Mike Jeffers, principal of Truman High School in Independence, was chosen from a pool of more than 20 applicants to take the helm of Columbia’s largest high school with 2,048 students, Superintendent Phyllis Chase confirmed Wednesday in a meeting at the Columbia Missourian.

Blunt silent to critics of bill

JEFFERSON CITY — The outcry over Gov. Matt Blunt’s cuts to Missouri’s Medicaid program reached a new pitch Wednesday when eight wheelchair-using citizens chained themselves to the doors of the Missouri House. Supported by a chanting crowd, the protesters blocked the hall for two and a half hours before relenting after their demand to meet with the governor went unanswered.

Capitol police quickly cut the chain but made no arrests. Instead, they moved down the hall to guard the office of House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, where Blunt was meeting with Republican legislators.

UM prepares for budget cut aftershock

With the approval of $48 million in higher education budget cuts in the Missouri Senate on Tuesday, the University of Missouri System is among the institutions preparing themselves for a possible budget shortfall.

Joe Moore, director of media relations for the system, said the cuts were not yet finalized. UM hopes the cuts — $18 million of which would be directed toward the system — are not approved, he said.

State Democrats bite into Bush plan

JEFFERSON CITY — After waiting patiently for nearly four months, Missouri’s Democratic legislators said Tuesday that they plan to force Republicans to at least consider debating a resolution denouncing President Bush and his plan to privatize Social Security.

The action, which required 55 legislators to sign a petition urging lawmakers to hear House Concurrent Resolution 14, effectively moved the resolution out of the committee where it has been sitting since March and will force it onto the House calendar. The calendar is a list of bills and resolutions that eventually will be debated by representatives.

Floyd names interim head for UMKC

Stephen Lehmkuhle, the top vice president in the University of Missouri System, will serve as interim chancellor for the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for me, and hopefully I can bring to UMKC the day-to-day leadership they need during this transitional period,” said Lehmkuhle, whose appointment by system President Elson Floyd was announced Tuesday.

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