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Talk of the towns

When State Farm Insurance announced last year that it planned to consolidate its Lincoln, Neb., and Woodbury, Minn., operations centers, both cities hoped to save the local jobs at stake by offering financial incentives to the company. Lincoln would eventually come out the winner, due in part to what city officials said was an “aggressive” package of enticements from both public and private sources.

Early next year, State Farm is expected to complete a “top-to-bottom” review of its operations centers in Columbia, Tulsa, Okla., and Monroe, La. In a series of meetings with Columbia business and political leaders in October, the company said that any consolidation resulting from the review would not be influenced by incentives, which according to Bernie Andrews, president of Columbia Regional Economic Development Inc., would likely not be forthcoming.

Carol different tune

In John Worre’s “The Gospel According to Scrooge” — soon to be performed at Christian Chapel in Columbia — Ebenezer Scrooge does not simply become a good person, he comes to accept the Gospel of Christ.

The full-length dramatic production follows the traditional story of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” but it adds a bit more humor and music. Most of the dozen songs were written for the play.

TB testing not routine at shelters

As winter approaches, the homeless must worry about more than finding a vacant bunk in which to pass a cold night. Homeless shelters are breeding grounds for certain diseases, say state health officials, including tuberculosis, a respiratory disease that is contracted through close contact with an infected person.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has called on homeless shelters in the St. Louis area, which have reported 15 new cases of TB among its homeless, to begin screening residents for the disease.

Police close inquiry on Reality House overdose

The Boone County Sheriff’s Department closed its investigation Wednesday into the October death of 26-year-old Reality House resident Erin Bennett, whose autopsy confirmed she died of a heroin overdose.

Investigators determined her overdose was accidental, said Boone County Sgt. Tom Reddin.

Education during vacation

For the first time in more than 10 years, general education classes will be offered at MU between traditional fall and winter semesters. The pilot intersession program stems from student interest, MU officials said.

“Because the time between terms doesn’t seem like enough time to work, it’s hard (for students) to find jobs that fill that niche, but they have the time to do something,” said Brenda Selman, MU registrar. “We checked into their requests and responded with the pilot program.”

Harris to represent U.S. in China

Missouri 25th District Rep. Jeff Harris is headed to China.

Harris, D-Columbia, was chosen by the American Council of Young Political Leaders as one of eight U.S. delegates charged with promoting foreign policy discussions between emerging political leaders around the world.

‘Dear Iowa voter: please vote Dean’

With the faint sounds of late-70s rock and disco music playing in the background, local Howard Dean supporters gathered at W.G. Grinders in downtown Columbia on Wednesday to work on their grass-roots campaign for the Vermont governor.

The evening, called a “meet-up,” focused on handwriting letters to undecided voters to swing their votes towards Dean in the upcoming Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

Sharing time

Voluntary Action Center will need volunteers for two-hour shifts Monday through Friday, Dec. 8 through Dec. 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Volunteers will be assisting in the collection and distribution of the holiday gifts and food for VAC’s 20th annual Christmas Program at Trinity Presbyterian Church. Call Cindy Mustard or Nancy Finke at 449-6959.

Boone County Council on Aging needs volunteers to assist low-income seniors with snow shoveling this winter. There is also a need for a volunteer to assist a disabled gentleman with grocery shopping during the morning or early afternoon hours. Another senior adult needs a couple of volunteers to waterproof her deck — this would just take a couple hours. If you can help with any of these projects call Andrea Kolb at 443-1111 or e-mail her at bcca03@coin.org.

Columbia teachers earn more than average

These days, it pays to be a teacher at Grant Elementary School. According to a new report on the Columbia Public School District, teachers at Grant earn $42,465 on average for their full-time services, almost $4,000 more than the state’s median salary.

The information released Monday in the 2002-03 report required by the state shows that teachers in the Columbia district earn about $2,000 more than the state average. It also shows that the district exceeds the state average in other categories, including the percentage of students entering four-year colleges or universities and the percentage of job placements for vocational students.

Protecting the past

For more than a century, Columbians have headed downtown to bank, dine, ship and shop. And while the central business district has gone through many transformations over the years, many of the buildings from the late 19th century and early 20th century remain.

Because of its central role in Columbia’s history, the Special Business District was recently nominated by the state for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Dozens of downtown structures are several decades old, and their rich architecture and history were detailed by Debbie Sheals, a local preservationist, in a report to the Missouri Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

MoDOT director to resign

JEFFERSON CITY — The director of the Missouri Department of Transportation announced his intention to step down from the agency next year.

Henry Hungerbeeler’s resignation comes just weeks after an independent citizens panel appointed by the state’s Highways and Transportation Commission recommended management change at the highest levels of the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Inquiry into crash response continues

The message sent out to Columbia Police units by dispatchers after an accident Friday on U.S. 63 near Broadway said only that the accident occurred somewhere near a bridge on the highway between Broadway and Stadium.

Police did not find the victims until driver Jerad Miller, 21, crawled up an embankment to flag down help after regaining consciousness the next morning.

Impact of I-70 plan addressed

The planned widening of Interstate 70 stands to have a significant impact on jobs and taxes, and the city of Columbia wants to know more about those potential impacts.

There are more than 300 businesses along the I-70 corridor in Columbia, and the city is taking bids from companies for an impact study about how the project would affect local jobs and tax revenues.

City’s large vehicles get new biofuel

A new form of biodiesel for use in city vehicles — and the city’s first hybrid car — were unveiled Tuesday morning at a ceremony attended by local, state and national officials who said they hope these purchases become widely used. The new fuel uses 20 percent soybean oil and is commonly called B20. It will be used in the city’s 290 large vehicles and heavy equipment.

Currently, the city uses about 400,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year in these vehicles, said Lowell Patterson, director of Public Works.

State releases $83 million in public funds for education

The coffers of the Columbia Public Schools and the University of Missouri system received a surprise boost Tuesday.

Citing an unexpected influx of federal money, Gov. Bob Holden released more than $80 million to Missouri’s public schools and colleges — a little more than one-third of the roughly $220 million he withheld in July because of budget concerns.

Harrowing crash

The last thing Jerad Miller remembers about his drive home from Columbia Mall on Friday night is turning south from Broadway onto U.S. 63 about 8 p.m.

The next morning, Miller regained consciousness wedged between the broken windshield of his blue Chevrolet Corsica and the freezing water of Hominy Branch Creek. His friend and passenger, 23-year-old Joseph Stenger, lay dead by his side.

Bills filed for next legislative session

JEFFERSON CITY — Monday marked the beginning of Missouri’s House and Senate prefiling bills for the January legislative session.

Issues lawmakers filed on the opening day ranged from taxes to gay marriages, from cloning to face veils and from repealing tax limits to freezing college tuition.

Withholdings case headed to high court

JEFFERSON CITY — A legal battle over withholdings to K-12 education that began in July makes its way to the highest court in the state Wednesday.

Fourteen Missouri school districts are asking the Missouri Supreme Court to reject Gov. Bob Holden’s $192 million in withholdings to public schools.

Council toughens panhandling law

Panhandlers might find their work a little harder this winter.

Amendments to the city code on panhandling, approved Monday night by the City Council, are placing greater restrictions on the ways people can solicit.

MU-Husker poster selling in Boonville

A poster that was torn from the shelves of MU-owned stores is selling wildly in Boonville. The poster commemorates the first Missouri Tigers football victory over Nebraska since 1978.

The Friends of Historic Boonville initially ordered 150 of the posters and sold them in three days for $10 each. The group then ordered a shipment of 100 more, which was received Monday, said Maryellen McVicker, executive director for Friends of Historic Boonville. The Friends sold 82 more posters in about six hours Monday, she said.

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