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Cool, perky and energetic were all words that Jill Villasana’s ninth-grade students used to describe her.

And cool is a word Villasana uses to describe a James Madison Foundation Fellowship she recently received. The fellowship, awarded annually to one person from each state, will pay up to $24,000 of Villasana’s educational fees as she pursues a master’s degree in social studies.

Eastside hotel proposed

The Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved plans to build a four-story, 152-room Hilton Garden Inn at the CenterState Crossings development between Vandiver Drive and U.S. 63 at its meeting Thursday night.

Commission member Jerry Wade called the hotel a pleasant addition to the CenterState Crossings location.

From here to there costs more

Fred Bunney regularly travels from his home in Pittsburg, Kan., to Columbia for treatment at Truman Veteran’s Hospital. Not long ago, gasoline for the round trip cost him about $23. Today, it runs him closer to $50.

“I used to go out riding around because I’m disabled,” said Bunney, as he filled his tank at the Phillips 66 at Providence Road and Locust Street. “Now I can’t do that.”

Grandfather admits to arson at son’s residence

An exhaustive two-year investigation culminated Friday in the guilty plea of an Arizona man to the largest arson fire in the history of the Boone County Fire District.

Francis Wildman, 82, of Prescott, Ariz., admitted setting his son’s house ablaze the night of his granddaughter’s wedding.

Lane wins 53 cents in school tax suit

The Columbia Board of Education will decide what to do today after the Missouri Court of Appeals sided against it Tuesday in a case concerning property tax levies.

The lead plaintiff, Henry Lane, said he was happy with the decision.

City manager: transportation key to growth

An increase in the city sales tax and expanded use of transportation development districts might help cover fiscal year 2005 transportation costs, according to City Manager Ray Beck.

At the State of the City address Wednesday morning, Beck emphasized quality infrastructure as a means to maintain annual city growth rates of 1 percent to 2 percent.

Beck: Tax-free Internet still taxes city services

Columbia City Manager Ray Beck would like to tax Internet purchases that occur in Columbia, but he isn’t sure exactly how to do it.

During his annual State of the City address, Beck said the trend toward Internet buying is one reason for slower growth in revenue from the city’s sales tax. Recent economic downturns and the emergence of businesses in neighboring communities are also to blame, he said.

Holden wants vote on gay marriage ban

JEFFERSON CITY — Gov. Bob Holden attempted Wednesday to set an Aug. 3 statewide election on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Missouri.

But the secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections, was weighing whether Holden’s proclamation can be enforced.

Kerry taps director for Mo. efforts

WASHINGTON — Democrat John Kerry has hired a Kansas City-based operative to assemble his campaign in Missouri, one of the battleground states where the presidential election will be won.

Tony Wilson left politics in 1997 to work in government affairs for Sprint Corp. and Microsoft Corp. A veteran of political campaigns who worked for Dick Gephardt, Al Gore and the national Democratic Party, Wilson is returning to direct Kerry’s Missouri operation.

Centri-sewage

The bright-blue cylinders roar day and night, and their powerful motors make the floor tremble as unseen parts spin inside. The two centrifuges have been hard at work at the city sewage treatment plant since it was built in 1983, separating solids from the millions of gallons of wastewater that’s piped to the plant each day.

After 20 years of service, these workhorses of the treatment plant, as well as other parts of the city sewer system, are feeling the effects of growth.

Bush urges passage of energy plan

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Wednesday rejected Democrats’ calls to ease high gasoline prices by tapping the nation’s petroleum reserve, saying such action would leave America vulnerable to terrorism in a time of war.

He also chastised Congress anew for failing to pass his energy proposal.

Whooping cough is diagnosed at new site

Despite a letter campaign conducted by the Columbia Public School District and the Boone County Health Department urging students and staff to take antibiotics, a new case of whooping cough has been diagnosed in a Columbia school.

The latest case was identified by the Health Department at Russell Boulevard Elementary on Monday, said Darlene Huff, nurse coordinator for the school district.

Demolition moratorium extended

A moratorium on the demolition of buildings downtown remains in place after the Columbia City Council voted 6-1 to extend it Monday night.

The moratorium first took effect Nov. 17 after buildings downtown were demolished to make way for surface parking lots. It barred further demolition until the city, in consultation with members of the downtown community, could determine whether regulations are necessary to ensure that buildings removed from the downtown area are replaced with new commercial buildings.

From the outside looking in

The tale of B.W. Robinson is so common it’s nearly invisible. The story lives on the fourth floor of the Missouri Capitol, in a long, narrow corridor, at a spot beneath a skylight, as if the building itself is drawing your attention to the man with the well-worn face.

Robinson is a Senate doorkeeper, which, for people who aren’t in tune with the inner workings of the statehouse, means little. He is just one of many anonymous Capitol employees whose jobs are vital but whose names are rarely recognized.

MU program aims to ease asthma

Chris Mordica has dealt with asthma his entire life. He uses an inhaler and a nebulizer, a machine that medicates the lungs, to control his symptoms. However, the 14-year-old has not let the disease slow him down.

Mordica has been playing sports for years and now plays on the football, basketball and track teams at West Junior High School. He said his asthma isn’t a major problem since he has had it for so long. But he knows the disease isn’t something to be taken lightly.

Arson inquiry at offices ongoing

Arson is suspected in a fire that caused extensive damage to the Salem Building on Forum Boulevard early Monday morning.

A preliminary estimate put damage at $325,000. The building houses real estate, dental and legal offices. Columbia fire investigators have determined that the fire was intentionally set and an investigation is ongoing, said Battalion Chief Steven Sapp of the Columbia Fire Department.

Hallsville park trail gets boost

Opportunities for walking, running and biking in Hallsville are about to improve.

Hallsville received a $5,000 grant to build a quarter-mile walking trail in Tribble Park. Construction is expected to begin this week and should be completed by late June, according to Cheri Reisch, Hallsville City Clerk.

Rough start for UM lobbyist

JEFFERSON CITY — Coming from a dairy farm in Pickering, Stephen Knorr said he learned early on to enjoy the company of other people.

“When you’re on a farm, anytime you see something besides livestock, you have a tendency to visit. It comes naturally,” he said.

Professor’s mentoring wins award

Ellis Ingram doesn’t look for applause when he reaches out to help someone. But last week in Washington, D.C., he couldn’t dodge the attention.

Ingram, an associate professor in the department of pathology and anatomical sciences, received the Presidential Award of Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering for his efforts to mentor young people.

A mission in microfilm

Charlie and Eleonore Fox were enjoying their retirement in Alpine, Utah, a town with a population of about 7,000. With their four children, 18 grandchildren and two horses close by, life was a daily joy.

But as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Foxes had something else on their minds besides the pursuit of leisure. They decided to give up a couple of years and join about 60,000 other church members who are serving as short-term missionaries around the world.

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