Here to help

Quiet and focused, 20-year-old Beth Stoltzfus goes about her Tuesday mornings working behind the information desk at University Hospital with a smile. Dressed in the plain long dress and black hair-covering favored by women in her faith, Stoltzfus works on behalf of the Mennonite Christian Public Service Program, a nationwide Mennonite volunteer organization for men and women.

Stoltzfus came to Columbia from Minerva, Ohio, this summer. When she arrived, she met Shana Unruh, 23, of North Dakota, who also volunteers for the program. Their decision to volunteer was a chance to get away from home — but definitely not a vacation.

Rock wall safety draws attention

Hauling in 25-foot-high mobile walls and one-and-a-half-ton boulders, a handful of climbing-wall manufacturers showcased their products during a trade show in St. Louis last week.

Among the vendors was Extreme Engineering, LLC of Newcastle, Calif., the manufacturer of the wall from which 22-year-old Christine Ewing fell to her death on July 15 outside a Mid-Missouri Mavericks baseball game.

Coalition proposes alternate sewer plan

Growth in the sensitive watersheds of southeast Columbia just isn’t smart — at least not yet, according to one community watchdog group.

Arguing that sewer extensions are the first step toward development, the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition said Friday that voters should reject the city of Columbia’s $18.5 million sewer bond issue because one of the slated projects would spur growth in the sensitive Gans Creek, Clear Creek and Little Bonne Femme watersheds. The bond issue appears on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Inmates’ hospital bills sit in limbo

Boone County officials are trying to figure out what to do with $50,000 in unpaid bills submitted by local hospitals for the care of jail inmates.

Just $10,000 had been appropriated for inmate hospital costs for the entire year, Boone County Auditor June Pitchford said. But, after just a few months, Pitchford had paid out nearly three times that amount before realizing something was amiss.

Postmark Iraq

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Andrew Weable watched events unfold on television. A frantic call from his mother interrupted his thoughts about what the attack could mean for the United States and for him.

“You’re not going into the Marines,” Melanie Weable said.

New store brings new frustrations

I’m old enough to know better. I swore I wasn’t going to do it. I said to myself, “No big deal. It ain’t worth it.” But as I rode around town on Monday doing errands, it was like the car had a mind of its own, and I found myself turning into the freshly asphalted parking lot of the newest store in town.

I have never been one to go to the grand opening of anything. You have to be a certain type of person to rush to the opening of a new restaurant — which means you have too much time on your hands. What’s the point of waiting in line for an hour only to be seated to wait for your dinner, which is never very good because the management and staff are still trying to work out all the bugs?

Picking the year’s last apple

With his dog, Toby, waiting patiently below, Jim Allen climbs his stepladder and pokes his fruit picker through the branches. It takes the entire reach of the 67-year-old’s arms plus the nine and a half feet of the bamboo pole to get near the remaining apples.

Allen has spent most of the day — his final day of this year’s harvest — picking apples in his Hartsburg orchard. He can feel it in his elbows and back. But he’s only taken two breaks, one for coffee and pie, and the other for lunch. That’s the only rest he’s needed. “I don’t work too fast or too hard,” he says.

Park plans will include picnic area

Mayor Darwin Hindman has long been an advocate of the Flat Branch Park project. It’s a matter of preserving important property, he said.

“It’s a historical site,” Hindman said. “Columbia really began right there.”

Schools must manage deficit, goals

Possibly short by about $12 million and equipped with new goals from the Board of Education and Superintendent Phyllis Chase, the Columbia Public School District looks toward a challenging future after Friday’s school board retreat.

According to preliminary reports, Columbia Public Schools could be $12.1 million under budget for the 2004-05 academic year, according to Jacque Cowherd, deputy superintendent for administration. That figure takes into account projected increases in fixed costs and expected budget shortfalls.

Fair highlights fuel-efficient cars

Despite the rain and crowds of people celebrating the Homecoming game, the Sustainable Lifestyle Fair attracted a turnout of about 140 people Saturday.

“We wanted to have a fair that had a broad focus — something for everyone,” said Greg Baka, the Center for Sustainable Living co-coordinator for the fair.

Pomp or circumstance

The forecasted rain and cold may put a damper on some Homecoming celebrations, but the festivities will go on.

Andy McCarthy, a Homecoming co-director, said “something drastic would have to happen for it to be canceled.”

A Debate on Proposed Catfish Regulations has Missourians Angling for a Solution

At 1206 Business Loop 70 W. in Columbia, there stands a bait shop divided. Here among the fishing poles of Tombstone Tackle, friends and fellow fishermen convene to discuss fishing conditions, what the fish are biting on and, lately, the controversial new catfish regulations being proposed by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

I-70 improvement options presented

Interstate 70 ran right through Gentry Middle School library Thursday night.

At an Improve I-70 Advisory Group meeting in the school’s library, three maps were presented that displayed alternate plans for access roads in Columbia along a six-mile stretch of the interstate. The meeting offered advisory group members and interested residents a chance to discuss the options.

Power isn’t everything

Pollution, or lack thereof, may soon help pay for repairs at Columbia’s Municipal Power Plant.

The city plans to sell the power plant’s excess sulfur dioxide allowances, which permit the plant to emit a certain amount of the pollutant each year. Money from the sale will enable the city to repair one of the plant’s two coal-fired boilers without increasing electricity rates. The repairs probably will cost around $5 million, Water and Light Director Richard Malon said.

MoDOT evaluates tolls for I-70

If it were up to the top brass at the Missouri Department of Transportation, tollbooths would be placed on Interstate 70 at the Illinois and Kansas borders.

Revenue from the tolls would be enough to cover at least 40 percent, and perhaps as much as 80 percent, of the estimated $2.4 billion to $2.7 billion needed to widen and improve I-70 all the way across the state, according to the Missouri Toll Feasibility Study. Conducted for the Transportation Department in 2002, the study explored the idea of using tollbooths on several highway corridors throughout Missouri.

Don’t let the cold weather keep you inside

As the air becomes crisp and multihued leaves tumble to the ground, the annual exodus of outside exercisers begins, filling gyms to the brim and leaving the streets and trails longing for the bustle of springtime.

The usual tips for winter exercise are to flock indoors, but there is enjoyment in trooping through cold conditions. My fondest running memories are of frolicking through a fresh blanket of snow, creating the first footprints into my imaginary wilderness. 

Saving seeds preserves past

Imagine a garden peach that is about 2 inches in diameter — yellow, with a red blush and fuzzy. It sounds like a normal peach, but this “garden peach” is actually a tomato, and it tastes like a tomato would be expected to taste.

Conservation Sleuth

Scott Rice backed his black Dodge Ram into a field between a group of trees so he was hidden from view. Boone County’s newest conservation agent waited only an hour before he caught someone in the illegal act of spotlighting deer.

“I was pumped,” Rice said. “You sit for hours — sometimes days — to catch someone.”

Graham calls for panel on med school

Although doctors at MU’s School of Medicine are not packing their bags, Rep. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, wants to discuss the medical school’s future in Columbia in a public forum.

In a letter Monday to UM Board of Curators President Connie Silverstein of St. Louis, Graham asked for a forum in the next month that would involve the curators, representatives from the UM system, MU and the School of Medicine, legislators and students.

Billing beef leads to Web site offer

Settling more billing disputes in favor of customers could earn University of Missouri Health Care a free Web domain name.

Pam Holley of Jefferson City, who claimed the domain name on Oct. 11 for her less-than-complimentary Web site, said she designed it earlier this year when she was unable to resolve a billing dispute with MU Health Care.