Inmate overflow

In the late 1990s, Boone County law enforcement officials, faced with the rising cost of housing inmates at out-of-county facilities, discussed building a new jail. The problem became acute in 1998, when the county spent more than $650,000 to incarcerate inmates in other jails.

By the end of the decade, the average daily population at the Boone County Jail had stabilized at about 200 inmates. Talk of building a new jail waned, and instead the work-release section of the jail was renovated to accommodate more inmates.

Council to vote on fairground use

After more than four years of deliberation over the future of the Boone County Fairground, the Columbia City Council tonight is poised to put its stamp of approval on a master plan for how the county should proceed with developing the property as a park and recreational complex.

A resolution on tonight’s agenda calls for the council to endorse Option III, which includes three ponds, a lake, several athletic fields, trails, shelters and an ice hockey and roller rink.

Sociology building has rich history

MU’s red brick Sociology Building stands empty. A sign on each door tells passers-by to “Stop” in large red letters. Most of the windows are covered. Inside, there are a few abandoned chairs, desks, file cabinets and sheets of paper strewn across the floor.

Hardly anyone has been inside the 111-year-old building — once the home of the law school, then the business school and, finally, the sociology and rural sociology departments — since it closed a year and a half ago.

NPR reporter to speak at MU

Linda Wertheimer gets recognized by strangers all the time. But it’s not her face that’s familiar; it’s her voice.

“I was standing in line at the airport one time and saw a blond woman across the room,” Wertheimer said. “I asked the woman in front of me whether she thought it was Sissy Spacek. The woman said, ‘I don’t know if that’s Sissy Spacek, but are you Linda Wertheimer?’ She recognized my voice.”

True or False?

The inaugural True/False Film Festival wrapped up its three-day run Sunday in Columbia, receiving rave reviews from moviegoers and filmmakers who seemed optimistic that the festival could become an annual city event.

At the 2:30 p.m. Sunday showing of “CSA: Confederate States of America,” people lined up in the cold outside the Blue Note to purchase tickets. The film is a mock documentary about what the world would be like if the South had won the Civil War.

Composer and cellist to lead Columbia Civic Orchestra

Columbia’s only orchestra designed for nonprofessional musicians of all ages has a new leader. Stefan Freund was named music director and conductor of the Columbia Civic Orchestra on Sunday. He has been rehearsing with the chamber orchestra’s 58 active members since January.

Freund, 29, a composer and cellist, fulfills the board of directors’ main requirements, said orchestra manager Bruce Gordon.

Transitioning transit

Columbia Transit is hoping that changes to the city’s bus routes will improve on-time performance and attract more riders.

The city agency has proposed a number of changes to the current bus routes. The changes announced in December could take effect as soon as June if approved by the City Council.

Bill would ban traffic light devices

JEFFERSON CITY — Imagine a device that would let you change a traffic light from green to red without even stopping. Traffic preemption emitter devices shoot infrared beams at traffic signals, causing the lights to cycle from green to red early. The devices are only intended for police and emergency personnel, but some Missouri lawmakers warn the devices can be purchased by anyone willing to shell out $300.

Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, is one of four state lawmakers working to ban the general public from using the device.

Free speech isn’t just about talking

I seriously doubt that the framers of the Constitution could have envisioned the many and varied ways in which freedom of expression would manifest itself in the years that have followed its ratification. Hmm, let’s see, there’s rap music shattering the night as it erupts from car stereos, there are pornographic images readily available to be pasted on the screens of home computers and vulgar and offensive language pouring out across the airwaves day and night, just to name a few examples.

Janet Jackson’s episode of wardrobe malfunction during halftime activities at the Super Bowl was all the incentive needed to trigger dialogues about the decline of the country’s moral standards all across America. Within the first 24 hours following the incident, probably everybody who had an opinion on the subject had taken an opportunity to express it. Frankly, I see this as just another occasion for daily life to duplicate television by enabling everyday people to audition for spots on the world’s largest and most spectacular open-air talk show. Except for a few cosmetic changes, it’s doubtful that anything concrete will come out of all this discussion. If things proceed in their usual fashion, the people that think something’s broken will lack the power to fix it, and those that think everything is fine will continue to advance and test the limits.

Who may marry?

For Rep. Larry Morris, a Republican from Springfield, homosexuality was never discussed while growing up in a Baptist setting. It was considered something sinful, a way of life he still believes is wrong.

For Melissa Stevens, a 25-year-old medicine student from Springfield and also a Baptist, homosexuality was something she battled most of her life. At first she thought it was sinful, but has now embraced it as a part of her identity.

Lower temperatures increase business

While you might be cursing the cold, some local businesses are benefiting from this winter's frigid temperatures. The dramatic drop in temperatures has upped January sales for many retailers selling cold-weather items.

TV task force hears public-access plans

Columbia’s cable companies are promising to establish a “phase one” public-access cable channel within 60 days, but a city task force will continue evaluating three competing proposals for a permanent channel.

The “phase one” channel would air for a trial period before the city council would decide to construct a permanent studio, according to the proposal put before the task force.

Valentine’s veterans

The curtains are closed and the lights are off. After what one of Columbia’s local romance emporiums calls the “busiest day of the year,” a tired owner closes shop.It’s been 24 hours since the last hurried inquiry for Valentine’s Day flowers was made. All day long, the staff at Kent’s Floral Gallery and Gifts filled requests ranging from the mundane ( a dozen roses) to the exotic (a serenading Elvis impersonator) for its customers.

The name game: MSU vs. SMSU

Since the state’s legislative session began last month, hardly a day has passed when there hasn’t been a squabble — or a full-blown filibuster — about whether Southwest Missouri State University should be allowed to change its name to Missouri State University.

Those who support dropping “Southwest” from the name say it represents SMSU’s progress over the past 15 years, from a regional school in Springfield to one with statewide appeal. Those who oppose it say SMSU is trying to cash in on MU’s heritage and state money.

Cow runs loose on College Avenue

Columbia police were called to College Avenue on Saturday afternoon to quarantine a cow that had made its way onto the road. Police said the black cow was spotted heading south on the road.

Joseph Fischer, who witnessed the incident, said he saw the cow go up a hill next to a ravine and witnessed two people whistling at the animal in an attempt to get it into a trailer on the back of a truck.

Satellites try thinking local

Brent Gardner enjoys watching MU basketball games. But because he subscribed to satellite TV instead of the local cable company, he couldn’t watch games aired on local channels. So, Gardner recently decided to subscribe to basic cable in addition to his satellite service from DirecTV.

Otherwise, he said, “I’d go to a sports bar or a friend’s house.”

Roadway frustrates residents

For frustrated residents of Brushwood Lake Road, wet concrete flowing out of a mixer Friday was a sight for sore eyes.

Local contractors have worked for months through persistent cold weather to construct a box culvert under the north section of the road, which crosses Hinkson Creek. All the while, residents have been forced to make a long, dangerously icy detour when traveling to and from their homes.

Decades of devotion

Mary and Bill Russell part with a hug and a kiss. She’ll be gone less than 12 hours, but for Bill each moment without her seems more permanent.

Bill waves goodbye and already misses her when he returns to their apartment at the Tiger Columns. They’ve never been separated for long.

Drawing a blank not much fun

It’s never happened to me before. And I never want it to happen again. Every week when I sit down to write this column, I have an idea or two as to what topic I will write about. But last week when I sat down at 5 a.m. (my usual time to begin writing), my mind went blank. I wasn’t worried, though. The coffee wasn’t quite ready, and I still had to go through my morning ritual of checking my e-mail.

After deleting about 75 spams and the 10 or so “jokes” sent by friends who have too much time on their hands, I played a couple of games of my new obsession, Solitaire 13. By then the coffee was ready, so I went to the kitchen and poured myself a cup. The morning paper had arrived, so I brought it from the front porch and sat in the kitchen and read the headlines.

Living in the presence of Swami

Dr. Ravi Kamath calls a pair of sandals his prized possession. This from a man who drives a Jaguar, owns a two-story home and has a parking spot marked “Trauma Surgeon Parking Only.”

The sandals, called paduka, were worn by the Swami Sri Sathya Sai Baba, a holy man in India who Kamath and other followers consider an avatar, an incarnation of God. They call him Sai Baba or simply Swami.