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Rate hike protested

Tensions were high Thursday night as a group of more than 45 Columbia residents gathered at a Public Service Commission public hearing to learn more about the proposed 78 percent increase in the nongas portion of their AmerenUE bills.

The utility’s request would eventually cost an average residential user an extra $16 a month for nongas charges, which make up one-third of a customer’s bill. The nongas rate covers expenses such as billing, maintenance, infrastructure and meter-reading — essentially everything other than the gas itself.

Adding it up

Numbers are everywhere, and the Columbia Public School District is working to make sure its students learn to understand them.

Even Dana Dillon’s fifth-grade pupils at Benton Elementary School can cite examples of math in their daily lives. Educators say that a sound understanding of basic math skills is necessary for adult success.

Irregular solar storm hits

One of the strongest geomagnetic storms in almost 30 years hit the Earth on Wednesday, and MU assistant professor of astronomy Angela Speck doesn’t know why. The solar activity that brings this type of storm usually climaxes every 11 years, she explained, meaning the cyclical peak for solar flares should have been three years ago.

“This is not supposed to be happening,” Speck said.

MU, JFA argue about protest

The provocative photo exhibit of aborted fetuses and human embryos ended on the MU campus Wednesday without the emotional confrontations that people on both sides of the abortion debate feared.

However, almost as soon as the two-story, billboard-sized photo exhibit went up in front of Kuhlman Court on Monday morning, tensions between the university and the group hosting the display, Mizzou Justice for All: Students for Bio-Ethical Equality, simmered behind the scenes.

Money flows in gun law debate

For some Missourians, the price of optimism is $125. For others, it runs as high as $100,000.

The cost depends on where one stands on the issue of concealed guns.

Experimenting with education

The eyes of 15 boys are glued to film canisters filled with water and Alka-Seltzer tablets. Suddenly, the canisters shoot to the ceiling, spraying water as they fall. Science specialist Gregory Kirchhofer shouts over the screams of joy, “maybe we should take this experiment outside.”

This was the scene at the second meeting of the Mill Creek Science Club for fifth-graders, which, because of the large roster, meets at 7:30 a.m. every Monday for boys and on Tuesdays for girls. Kirchhofer gives the students hands-on learning opportunities each week to get them interested in science.

Nickell’s to bring fairways up to par

The grass is always greener on the other side — especially when it’s got a brand new irrigation system.

L.A. Nickell Golf Course, a public course run by the Parks and Recreation Department, will get such a system soon. The Columbia City Council on Oct. 20 approved a plan to spend $700,000 to irrigate the course and convert its fairway turf to zoysia.

Dress success

Courtney Nelson has a passion for clothing, and she is willing to steam dresses for eight hours just to get hands-on experience.

Nelson, a senior at Stephens College from Keystone, Colo., has spent the past six months helping organize Stephens’ fashion department exhibit, “For Better, For Worse: The Dress, The Woman, The Life.”

Ghouls and goodies

Carol Spratt still trick-or-treats — even at age 40. Her secret: take a child along.

Spratt was an aunt at the age of 10, and there was always a child who needed her to take them out on Halloween.

Rock wall law could be revised

Rep. Chuck Graham is challenging what he calls a loophole in a state amusement park statute that doesn’t require all climbing walls to be subject to inspections or to have safety cables.

Graham announced Wednesday that he intends to file legislation on Dec. 1 that would add climbing walls to the list of rides requiring inspection under Missouri’s amusement park statute. The current law only requires rides with mechanical devices to be inspected.

MU issues values letter

A letter concerning the free exchange of ideas and appropriate student response to controversy was sent this week to about 5,700 students who live in MU’s residence halls.

The letter was sent in part to address the harassment experienced by a female student who lives in Johnston Hall. The student, who was not identified, told the Residential Life Department that posters on her dorm room door supporting abortion rights had been vandalized and that related, inappropriate messages were left on the door’s message board.

Fishing for Answers

It’s been six years since the endangered Topeka shiner was found in Boone County, and scientists think chances are slim that the species will ever be found naturally in local streams again.

The silver-colored minnow is an indicator species, which means its decline can foreshadow the survival of other species of fish.

Movin’ on up

Thrill seekers may now glide up and down Columbia’s second public escalator.

With the recent grand opening of the two-level Famous-Barr department store, J.C. Penney no longer operates the only public escalator within city limits.

Innovation touted at Famous-Barr

Managers at Famous-Barr hope their new store in Columbia, along with a small fleet of others like it nationwide, will help usher in a new era in American department stores.

With more aisle space, brighter lighting and a “racetrack aisle,” the design is intended to allow the customer more freedom, a more informal shopping experience and a brighter shopping environment.

Critics balk at sewer extension measure

Nearly a third of the money from an $18.5 million sewer bond issue on Tuesday’s ballot would be used to extend Columbia sewers into areas ripe for development. City officials, however, say it’s impossible to say for sure which lines would be extended first.

Potential sewer extensions meeting city criteria are in nearly every local watershed, including those of Clear, Mill and Grindstone creeks. Sewer engineer Steve Hunt said policy calls for new lines to begin within city limits and extend to “80-acre” points. The points are called that because they are specific points to which 80 acres of surrounding property will drain. Once the city extends a main line, developers must cover the cost of tapping into it.

Number of snow trucks drops to 9

One less truck will be used to remove snow and ice from county streets this winter.

The Boone County Commission decided to use nine trucks, down from the 10 it used last year, because of the high cost associated with contracting for snow removal. Commissioners Tuesday informally decided to accept two bids: one from Highpoint Enterprises that would provide six trucks at a cost of $200 an hour, and another from Diamond “C” Services for three trucks at $250 an hour.

Pierpont residents split over annexing

With the possibility looming that Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and surrounding areas could be annexed into the city, some residents of the Pierpont area bordering the park are getting worried that they will be next.

The park has asked the city to run sewer lines from Rock Bridge Elementary School to the park. In turn, the city asked the park to sign a “pre-annexation agreement,” which would annex the park when the city limits reach its boundaries.

Record numbers apply for grants

Amanda Coggeshall, a volunteer at El Centro Latino, says she knows the challenges Latino students face adjusting to life in Columbia.

“These kids have trouble: they move here and are not used to a Midwest town,” Coggeshall said. “We want to create a safe place where students can discuss what happens to them because they are Latino in a mostly white school.”

Forum discusses MU alcohol policies

Alcohol and other drug use accounts for between 75 percent and 80 percent of all violations handled by MU’s residential life and student life departments, said Mark Lucas, interim director of student life. Lucas spoke Tuesday in a forum in Memorial Union about alcohol on campus, one of the final events in a month-long campus alcohol responsibility campaign.

“Residential life sees approximately 1,200 cases a year and student life sees about 400 cases a year, and when they are combined the overall cases are just dominated by alcohol and drug violations,” Lucas said.

Fayette rental law under scrutiny

An unkempt house with a dilapidated front stoop and plastic-covered windows faces West Morrison Street in Fayette. Tonia Young rents the run-down property for $350 a month.

“How people live here, don’t ask me,” she said, pointing to a jumble of packing tape that’s holding a window together.

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