Art in the trees

Nestled between a roundabout and a bar on Old 63 is the future of an artist, wrapped up in the paws of two maple wood tigers.

“Fighting Tigers of Missouri,” a 9-foot sculpture weighing 1,200 pounds, is the result of more than three years of work that Columbia artist Lonnie Tapia hopes will be worth every chisel mark.

Concerns snag plan to widen highway

Without successful mediation, a barrier between county commissioners, business owners and the Missouri Department of Transportation may divide or halt the plan to improve Missouri 763.

Grading, paving and widening the road to four lanes with a raised median from Big Bear Boulevard to U.S. 63 are the proposed improvements for the project.

Honor system for tax credit scrutinized

JEFFERSON CITY — It seemed like a perfect, albeit somewhat complicated, scheme. Fake the purchase of business equipment, send the state the phony invoices and checks, then receive a $75,000 tax credit under a program meant to reward high-tech companies in low-income areas.

During the past two years, James Holtrop and his wife, Jill Meyerhardt, used the scheme to collect $300,000 in Rebuilding Communities tax credits. The St. Louis couple pleaded guilty last week to two counts each of stealing by deceit and agreed to cooperate in an ongoing investigation into others accused of doing the same thing.

Every curve represents a lesson

A teacher’s footsteps echo on the ceramic floor as her pupils sit armed with their crayons. Making her rounds, the teacher spies an unfamiliar scene on one student’s page.

“Lonnie,” she says. “Trees don’t look like that.”

Rezoned land to be for duplexes

Columbia will soon have a new development on its west side.

The Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday approved the rezoning of 40 acres in western Columbia, allowing builder Jack Dougherty to continue with his plan to build upscale duplexes.

Security concerns hamper relocation of attorney’s office

County commissioners are divided over the possibility of moving the prosecuting attorney’s office to the third floor of the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center because of the office’s need for metal detectors and security guards.

“My biggest concern is how we would deal with the security,” Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said. “I don’t want to change the culture of the building for the public.”

City tweaks Sapp’s plan for Philips tract, park

City Manager Ray Beck issued a counterproposal Friday that calls for Elvin Sapp, the would-be developer of the Philips farm, to contribute more money toward road improvements to serve his development and a city park planned for the property.

The proposal also asks that Sapp split the cost of a traffic study and cover two-thirds of the expense of raising a dam and dredging the 40-acre Bristol Lake. This is so the lake can serve double duty as a regional storm-water detention basin and a place of recreation.

Checking out coffee, too

Patrons strolling in on Saturday morning slowed their steps and turned their heads to look at the new Lakota Coffee Kiosk in the Columbia Public Library that was up and running for its first full day of business.

The kiosk stands opposite to the book checkout in front of the ceiling-high windows that illuminate the lobby on sunny days. The state-of-the-art countertop holds the self-serve coffee dispensers and a top-of-the-line Brasilia cappuccino maker. The biggest seller is the regular cup of joe, called the “library blend,” which was specially brewed for this location, said Lakota employee Anthony Russomanno.

Mapping system locates 911 callers

The Public Safety Communications Center in Columbia/Boone County can now pinpoint the specific location of 911 callers thanks to a new software system.

The Geographical Information Systems mapping system was officially unveiled and activated on Feb. 6. The software was added to the current phone system and will allow 911 calls, including calls that come from cellular phones, to be located geographically. The location of 911 callers was not always available.

County appoints new board member

David Shorr, former director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, has been appointed to the Boone County Regional Sewer District’s board of directors.

The Boone County Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to appoint Shorr, who will serve as a representative of the Rock Bridge Township. His term expires on Jan. 1, 2009.

Education bill would raise casino tax

Missouri higher education could receive more than $100 million from increased taxation on people’s gambling losses, said Columbia’s Reps. Chuck Graham and Jeff Harris.

The two Democrats introduced a bill in the House on Friday, HB 1537, that would eliminate a Missouri casino-gambling law that limits spending to $500 every two hours. The bill would then raise the tax on casino revenue by 1 percent.

Trust grants Scouts $20,000

The Columbia Police Department and the Great Rivers Council Boy Scouts of America are the most recent beneficiaries of the Stafford Family Charitable Trust.

The trust gave $20,000 to the Scouting group for a camp ranger residence at Camp Thunderbird in Cairo, Mo.

Loss of liberties blamed on fear

Professors from around the country gathered at the MU School of Law Friday afternoon and Saturday morning to discuss the roles that fear and risk perceptions play in society during times of democratic crisis — times when civil liberties are jeopardized, such as during war.

The symposium focused specifically on governmental responses to national states of emergency.

Sports haven envisioned

Columbia park planners are excited about the potential for a 500-acre regional park that could link Rock Bridge Memorial State Park to Nifong Park, but they warn the planning and development process could take as long as five years.

City officials believe they can create a park that fits the city’s 2002 master plan, which calls for a 300- to 500-acre park in southeast Columbia.

Mardi Gras in Soulard takes students back home

With Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday just around the corner, MU students from St. Louis are packing their bags to head home for the 25th annual Grand Parade through Soulard.

“I love going to Mardi Gras in St. Louis,” said Justin Hitschler, an education major. “I go every year and make a four-day weekend out of it. It is a great time hanging out in the streets; you can find great music.”

Police searches disputed

Columbia police don’t always need a warrant to enter someone’s home. Sometimes, all they need to do is knock.

Police call this tactic a “knock-and-talk” investigation, and officers use it to make contact with people they believe are involved in illegal drug activity. According to reports from the narcotics unit, the number of these investigations conducted between 2002 and 2003 doubled from 11 to 22.

Meet local candidates

The Columbia Missourian asked the candidates for the Columbia City Council, which includes the mayor, to tell readers in 100 words or fewer what they believe is the most pressing or important issue in local government today and why. Below are their verbatim, written responses. Also included is a brief personal look at each of the candidates. The Missourian provides the contact information as a service to its readers.

New Sunday

My Sunday is coffee beans and hymns and bagels and car washes and Missouri basketball on the radio. It is trips to parks like Rock Bridge for walks and drives down Broadway for no reason at all. It is art fairs and street music. It is people-watching on Ninth Street. It is polite conversation and public eavesdropping. It is my son’s baseball practice at The Barn, my daughter’s friends at the house, my wife’s research papers spread all over the table and floor and sofa. My Sunday is wondering what the Missourian staff is doing and whether I should sneak in to help out.

My Sunday is not perfect. It is far from perfect. Just as my Columbia is not perfect. But it’s my Columbia, and your Columbia. And although it’s my newsroom, it’s really your Missourian.

Farmers net higher prices for soybeans

Nathan Martin usually plants equal amounts of soybeans and corn on his 1,400 acres of cropland just outside Centralia. This spring, though, Martin plans to put two-thirds of his cropland in soybeans to take advantage of some of the best prices in years.

Soybeans, the No. 1 cash crop in Missouri, were selling in central Missouri on Friday for a lofty $8.66 to $8.69 per bushel — a price the market has not seen since September 1997.

Aging isn’t always so graceful

Winter is especially difficult for the elderly, and lately I’ve been feeling their pain. When I get up from a chair, something cracks or snaps. I now look down when I walk instead of straight ahead. My war wounds from my youth are coming back to life. When I was in ninth grade at Jeff Jr. (in this very town) someone dared me to jump over a half wall to the landing, which separated the stairs going down to the girls and boys locker rooms. I took the dare and missed the landing and fell to the bottom of the stairs, crushing my fourth thoracic vertebra. The doctor gave me an ugly brace that extended from my collarbone to my pelvis. I wore loose-fitting jumpers (which were NOT in style) for more than a year. And I remember the doctor saying that I would have a dowager hump when I was old. I just giggled. I was only 13; old was 40. Well, it seems lately my kids keep telling me to stand up straight. They say I’m bent over when I walk. GULP!

I recently started thinking about getting old. You don’t just wake up one morning and walk to the mirror and gasp, wondering who the person is staring back at you. It’s a gradual process. But, by golly, I’m showing definite signs.