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.

Details about these positions

All seven members of the Columbia City Council serve three-year terms and volunteer their time and efforts.

Voters in each of the city’s six wards elect one council member each, and the mayor is elected by voters citywide to serve as an at-large council representative with no more real power than any other member.

Dynamic Direction

Twenty-nine-year-old Stefan Freund snaps his fingers as 38 pairs of eyes follow intently for their cue. “Short, long. Short, short — long,” Freund sings, raising the baton. After a few more stanzas, the Columbia Civic Orchestra is done with Czech composer Antonin Dvorzak’s “New World Symphony.”

“All right, we kind of got through it. We’ll run through it again the coming two weeks,” Freund says before turning to Igor Stravinski’s “Suite No. 2.” Freund snaps his fingers or whistles the melody at times; his expressive mouth and eyebrows sets the mood for the piece.

Holy Hoops

As a voice on the loudspeaker boomed their names, 10 boys clad in identical royal blue T-shirts and bright orange jerseys charged through a silver tunnel made of wire and paper that stretched out in front of them.

They leapt over a cloud of gray smoke that billowed in wisps at the tunnel’s exit and then darted onto a basketball court surrounded by their cheering families.

The Family Flock

Gerri Moore is a little sick of having lambs all over her kitchen floor.

“At first they’re kind of cute, but after you get four or five in here, it gets a little old,” she says. She raises her voice slightly to be heard over the bleating practically underfoot.

Schools crunching funds

Almost 50 staff positions will have to be cut next year if teachers are to remain on their current salary schedule, school administrators told the Columbia Board of Education on Thursday.

The board decided to continue operating the district salary schedule — that is, incremental payments for teachers based on experience and education — but said raises beyond that are not feasible with a predicted budget shortfall of $8.7 million for the next school year.

Mothers in their Prime

Not long ago, it wasn’t unusual for young women attending college to say they were going to get an M.R.S. degree, better known as the “Mrs.” degree.

Christine Pierson, now 32, was not one of those women. When she attended college in California, she said, many people in her circle of friends weren’t looking for future husbands and wives and were not engaged until about five years after college.

City officials deny hiding details from public

City officials have nothing to hide in their dealings with would-be Philips farm developer Elvin Sapp, City Council members said Thursday.

The Sierra Club and some residents have accused the council of trying to conceal details of its business dealings with Sapp, which include the possibility of the city buying part of the Philips farm for a park. Council members contacted Thursday said those accusations are unfounded.

Future of MAP at stake in House debate on state education needs

Members of the Columbia School Board said Thursday that they want any additional state money to be spent on teachers. And their commitment to that philosophy may well be tested in the future.

Under a House education funding bill, the Columbia board — as well as hundreds of other school boards across the state — may have to face one of the most unpleasant choices a school board can face: whether to pay for a federally mandated test or satisfy the needs of their district.

Salt, cinders central to de-icing plan

Regular snowfall and temperatures hovering below freezing for the past month have led to slick sidewalks and roads this winter in Columbia.

For drivers, this means being extra careful on the roads and relying heavily on city officials to keep the roads drivable.

Plan links Philips, state park

The park planned for the Philips property just south of Columbia might include an extension of Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, city officials said Thursday.

The city has held preliminary talks with representatives of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources about extending Rock Bridge park to include at least part of a 320-acre tract owned by Sue Crane just south of Gans Road and west of Highway 63.

Illinois company courts Missouri

Take a look at several of the high-profile projects on the MU campus and you’ll notice they have something in common: They’re all being built by River City Construction. The Illinois-based construction company has picked up so much new business in mid-Missouri that it’s decided to establish a Missouri headquarters in Ashland.

John Sutherland, Missouri project manager for the construction company, said the proximity to projects and availability of space in the Ashland area led to the decision to build a branch there.

Agency vexed with fiscal fiasco

The Columbia Housing Authority must make up $200,000 of its $9 million operating revenue this year.

Its top accounting manager resigned Wednesday due to the administration’s dissatisfaction with his work.

MU instructs teachers on science of DNA

Leigh Fleck decided to go back to college for a day to help her middle school students learn more about DNA and new research.

Fleck, a science teacher at New Franklin Middle School, was part of a group of four teachers who participated in the first of a series of six workshops organized by the MU Plant Genomics Research Experience for Teachers Program.