AmerenUE seeks increase in heating price this winter

Most Missouri residents would see an increase in their natural gas bills this winter if the Missouri Public Service Commission approves AmerenUE’s request to raise the Purchase Gas Adjustment.

Mike Cleary, spokesman for AmerenUE, said he expects the change to be approved. The new prices would take effect Nov. 1.

Space to grow

Officials from the Columbia/Boone County Health Department and the Family Health Center on Monday celebrated the opening of a new building that has enough room to allow both organizations to serve the community better.

The new Sanford-Kimpton building, on West Worley at the site of the old Nowell’s grocery store, has been home to the health department and the center since this summer. Inside, patients are greeted with open ceilings, natural colors on the walls and more space.

Rios to get Clay County jury

A jury from Clay County is likely to decide the fate of former Columbia police officer Steven Rios, but his trial will still take place in Boone County.

Judge Ellen Roper made the decision at a hearing Monday. She also agreed to delay the trial until next May.

Sheriff candidates spar over meth, jail

Methamphetamine labs, community policing and crowding at the Boone County Jail were among the top issues discussed by the two candidates for Boone County Sheriff at a forum Monday night.

While both candidates have similar concerns about these topics, they differed about the extent of change needed in the sheriff’s department.

Experience, drive among candidates’ qualifications

On a late September morning, Boone County Commission candidate Mike Asmus hops off his red-white-and-blue bike and begins a trek up his first driveway of the day. With colorful political leaflets and a confident smile, Asmus rings the doorbell and introduces himself to an older man in a green shirt, who listens politely but seems only mildly interested in county politics.

Later that day at the annual Boone County Volunteer Reception, Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller greets guests with small talk and a handshake. She exhibits an unflappable knack for names and a deep knowledge of county business.

Debating for Missouri

KANSAS CITY— In their first televised gubernatorial debate, Democrat Claire McCaskill cast Republican Matt Blunt as too inexperienced for the job, while Blunt countered by repeatedly touting his plan to overhaul Missouri’s legal system.

Blunt, the secretary of state, and McCaskill, the state auditor, each were hoping the debate Monday could give them the edge in the Nov. 2 election in a race that public opinion polls show to be virtually even. The second and final televised debate is scheduled for Friday in Springfield, Mo.

Hallsville schools consider funding

Tom Baugh’s job as superintendent of the Hallsville R-IV school system has broader focus than his previous post as principal of Hallsville High School. Instead of focusing on one component of Hallsville’s sprawling and interconnected campus, Baugh must look beyond the small community to determine his school system’s status.

“When you take this chair, you become concerned about the district focus, the focus of K through 12,” Baugh said.

Learning to bridge the funding gap

JEFFERSON CITY — Bill Hodge read in the newspaper that some school districts in Missouri could afford to install rock-climbing walls in their schools. Those districts seem a world away from his in rural Jasper County.

“I’m not asking for a rock-climbing wall; I’m asking for a suitable place where our elementary and junior high kids can have adequate instruction,” said Hodge, principal of Jasper High School.

Man pleads guilty to racketeering

Henry Rehmert Sr. of Montgomery City pleaded guilty Monday morning to racketeering charges in federal court. He was one of four men indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2003 on charges related to the deaths of two Columbia residents.

Rehmert, his son and two other men were involved in a criminal enterprise meant to deceive and defraud individuals of money from 1989 to 2002, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in St. Louis.

Rezoning proposal tabled

Bruce and Kathleen Maier want the Columbia City Council to rezone about 42 acres at the east end of Stadium Boulevard to allow for commercial development. They just don’t know exactly what they want to put there.

And that’s a problem, at least for some of their neighbors and members of the council.

Problem gamblers aplenty in state

It’s probably safe to say these days that most people know at least one problem gambler. Some are addicted to bingo or video poker, while others can’t stay away from lottery tickets or casinos. Like those addicted to alcohol or drugs, these people can’t resist games of chance.

Missouri gamblers were the subject of a recent study by Harvard researchers, who sought to determine the extent of problem gambling in the state. According to their report, about 39,000 Missourians had faced a serious gambling problem in the past year. The study, funded by a grant from the Port Authority of Kansas City, focused on more than 5,000 individuals who had voluntarily excluded themselves from state casinos since 1996. Under the self-exclusion program, these folks subject themselves to prosecution for trespassing if they attempt to enter casinos. These individuals are, apparently, seeking help big time. So far, it is estimated that 13 percent of Missouri’s problem gamblers are seeking that kind of assistance.

Providers collaborate to meet flu shot needs

With the loss of nearly 47 million doses of flu vaccine worldwide after a British government crackdown on a global supplier, health care providers in Boone County are scrambling to meet demand as the winter flu season approaches.

Heather Baer, a spokeswoman for the Columbia/Boone County Department of Health, said the agency ordered most of its vaccines from Chiron Corp., the British firm that had its license suspended earlier this month over a failure to comply with the United Kingdom’s manufacturing regulations.

Bow hunting takes aim at reducing deer herds

For many mid-Missouri residents, fall is the season for hunting.

Although the majority of hunters uses guns, few Columbians channel their inner Robin Hood with the unique sport of bow hunting.

Devil’s Icebox cave offers mental, physical challenge

As the cool autumn breeze begins to blow, the Devil’s Icebox cave moans and echoes to the visitors of Rock Bridge State Park.

Some visitors hear this call to walk the unbeaten path and enter another dimension of life that exists in the seven-mile Devil’s Icebox cave.

Treasurer faces challenger for first time in 12 years

For the first time since 1992, Boone County Treasurer Kay Murray has an opponent in an election. Republican Fred Evermon has stepped forward to challenge Murray, who has held the office for 28 years.

The Boone County treasurer is responsible for making investment decisions, receiving and disbursing the county’s money, balancing the county checking account with the general ledger and handling all bond issues.

Fishing heats up with cooler weather

Fishing poles are lazily dipped over the sides of boats, painting radiating rings on the surface of the sparkling water.

A gentle breeze stirs the air causing shallow waves to ripple across the still water. This is the tranquil scene found at area lakes.

Orchards provide ‘pick-your-own’ experiences

Will Waterman, 3, rolled over a pumpkin while his brother Wes, 5, pulled on another to break it from the vine.

The brothers, from Columbia, ran back and forth between their parents during a Sunday afternoon picking pumpkins and apples at Huffstutter Orchards in New Franklin.

Trails offer several paths to exercise

On any given day, casual walkers and avid runners trek a highway of dirt and gravel paths through Columbia’s wooded areas.

The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department maintains 25 trails. These range from the quarter-mile trail in Westwinds Park to 4.7-mile MKT Nature and Fitness Trail.

Fall ideal time for working on garden

The air is cooling, the nights are getting colder and the plants in the garden are starting to look brown and unattractive.

In other words, it’s time to start winterizing the garden.

West side attracting business

West Columbia is growing, and local businesses want to be a part of it. Broadfield Properties made deals with three more businesses this week that will plan to open in the Broadway Broadfield Shopping Center, next to Hy-Vee, 3120 W. Broadway.

Tuesday, the developer signed leases with Chinese restaurant Mandarin House, Mexican eatery Rio Grande and a new University Hospital MRI center, said Roger Thomas, a partner in Broadfield Properties.