AmerenUE seeks bill increases

There is a $10.55 difference of opinion between state regulators and AmerenUE on how much to increase monthly bills for natural gas.

The utility wants to raise rates to increase the average gas bill by $16.26, but the staff of the state’s Public Service Commission recommends an increase that would make the average customer’s bill only $5.71 more each month.

Governor, speaker spar over schools

So it wasn’t a classic showdown at high noon, with dust and tumbleweeds a-blowin’.

But as afternoon clouds dumped rain on Columbia, House Speaker Catherine Hanaway, R-St. Louis County, and Gov. Bob Holden squared off across Missouri and hailed on each other.

Downtown buildings get reprieve from demolition

For at least the next six months, no building in downtown Columbia will be demolished to make room for a parking lot.

The Columbia City Council on Monday night approved 7-0 a moratorium on demolishing buildings within the Special Business District. That ban will last until May 17 to allow the Planning and Zoning Commission time to work with interested downtown parties to create a long-term solution for regulating future development and demolition.

The strong and the tasteless

It wasn’t his matted hair, or even his decades-old faded red-and-white plaid suit, that made local recruiter Traci Scardina recall her experience interviewing this man with a gasp of horror. It was, to borrow a phrase from the recruiting industry, the whole package.

Scardina’s first warning sign came from her nose, which detected a body odor so repugnant that she had to make an excuse of the weather to open her office window during the interview. Scardina said that she could not work in her office for an hour after the interview because of the offensive smell the man left behind.

Growth of city’s center gets increased scrutiny

As city and county planners struggle to get a handle on growth in the urban fringe, another type of growth is getting increasing attention.

A thriving downtown is a goal of Columbia’s Metro 2020 plan, but how to accomplish that is a source of debate.

Corps releases Missouri River plan

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would keep more water in upper Missouri River reservoirs during extreme drought under a plan proposed Monday.

But the corps, which manages dams and reservoirs along the 2,341-mile river, does not plan to make the seasonal changes to the river’s depth that cause the spring rises and summer lows that conservationists contend are needed to protect endangered fish and bird species.

Teacher awaiting spring to peddle her frozen treats

Virginia Muller cannot sit still. So having free time during the summer did not go over well with the MU composition teacher.

Two years ago, she decided to fill her schedule by opening up what she calls a “microbusiness.” In search of a type of business that would give her freedom to go where she wanted and talk to whom she wanted, Muller bought a tricycle from a company in New York City and decided to sell ice cream to Columbians from the bike.

Housing for all

Take a drive through neighborhoods near the center of Columbia, and you’ll notice most of the houses were built decades ago.

“There’s a lack of housing that’s decent and affordable in the inner city,” said the Rev. William Young, president and CEO of Columbia Enterlight Ministries. “Most of the homes were built before ’75.”

Holiday lights to bathe downtown

Select downtown facades will be illuminated in holiday colors and display shimmering snowflakes of light beginning Thursday at 6 p.m.

The 35,000-watt lighting project was designed by MU theatre graduate Chris Howe, who bathed Memorial Union in pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Week and illuminated the Boone County Courthouse for the annual First Night event last New Year’s Eve. His latest endeavor downtown will be the largest outdoor lighting project of his career.

Low-carb fad extends to dogs, cats

It is often said that, over time, pets come to resemble their owners. With that in mind, perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising that an increasing number of American pets are struggling with obesity.

To combat pets’ expanding waistlines, local veterinarians are turning to a controversial approach to dieting that many humans have tried in recent years. The new diet is similar to the Atkins Diet, which encourages people to eat meat, eggs and cheese at the expense of breads and fruit.

Car buyers can snag big bargains this fall

Between now and the end of the year, car buyers might find the greatest deals not in dealer showrooms but in the parking lots outside. As automakers flood the market with 2004 models, car dealers are pushing hard to clear out their 2003 inventory.

Typically, customers can snag the best prices on new cars during year-end closeout sales, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst at, an independent, California-based Web site that provides advice to car consumers.

Stalled rural jail project back on track

A rural Missouri jail project, stalled by financial problems and fighting among Randolph County officials, edged back on track Monday as a citizens group dropped lawsuits challenging its construction and a local conglomerate pledged to buy the first $1 million of county construction bonds.

Citizens for Good Government filed papers informing Special Judge Robert Lee Campbell it had dropped its two lawsuits against the county, saying it didn’t want to delay the resumption of the jail’s construction. The parties had been scheduled to meet Tuesday to continue talks about a possible settlement, but Campbell postponed the meeting until next week.

Pierpont village pursued

Fear of being annexed by the city of Columbia prompted Pierpont residents to meet with county officials Monday night to discuss the possibility of becoming a village or a town.

More than 30 Pierpont residents attended the meeting, and almost half voted to continue discussing incorporation, which would prevent the city from annexing them. Only five voted against the measure.

Cunningham seeks state Senate seat

Local businesswoman Kat Cunningham said Monday that she will seek the Republican nomination for the 19th District state senate seat next year.

The owner of Moresource, a personnel administrative outsourcing company based in Columbia, Cunningham hopes her small-business background will boost her campaign.

Grant to promote city’s active ‘Way of Life’

Students at Grant Elementary School are already singing the praises of physical fitness, months before they’ll see the effects of a grant awarded to the city.

They helped open a school assembly and news conference Thursday morning with a new jingle, singing: “When you bike, walk or wheel, see how good you feel!”

Let people celebrate in their own ways

Until a few years ago, I suffered from anniversary blues during this time of year. This is a condition that affects some people annually around the dates when they have undergone traumatic experiences. As it happened, my anniversaries coincided with the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when some folks experience unadulterated joy. When I spoke to my therapist friends, they told me that there were many, many people who suffered the same thing. The situation only caused me trouble the few times I had to do business with immature people. These folks always jump to the conclusion that everybody feels the same way they do about everything.

Fortunately, I got past all that after awhile, but it left a lasting impression. And so every year around this time I try to get the message out that, “Your thrill is not everybody’s thrill, so try to keep a lid on it, whatever it is.” Most people, especially those who move in wider, more diverse circles, are always conscious of religious differences. There is probably no other time during the year when people need to be as aware of social and cultural differences among their friends and colleagues as during the holidays.

MU student killed in party brawl

By Sunday afternoon, beer cans and broken bottles were the only remnants of a late-night college party that turned tragic. A 20-year-old MU student was shot to death outside a duplex on Riva Ridge Court about 3:30 a.m. Sunday after a fight broke out among party guests, said Columbia police Capt. Mike Martin.

Charles Blondis, a sophomore classics major at MU, was shot at least once in the upper torso and was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said they found three shell casings and have not yet determined whether Blondis was hit by more than one shot.

Columbia to provide recycling option to businesses

Local businesses have a new option to preserve Columbia’s environment. The city’s Solid Waste Division is now offering a commercial recycling service for businesses that is similar to the residential blue bag and fiber pickup.

“Between Civic Recycling and our new program, we should have Columbia’s recycling needs well-covered,” said Richard Wieman, Solid Waste Utility manager. The new program is part of an evolving process designed to meet Columbia’s changing recycling needs. This week, the Solid Waste Utility will begin operating a new sorting line for fiber. The line will be located in the material recovery facility that was erected by the city in fall of 2002. Much of the equipment inside the recovery facility, including the new sorting line, was provided by grants.

Fast and fabulous

Waymon Jones’ 2000 Mazda Protege is the ultimate tricked-out car.

The deep-blue exterior features tinted windows, 18-inch aluminum wheels and purple neon undercarriage lights. A nitrous oxide injection system, considered illegal for street racing, gives his car an extra boost.

Ride plan for senior citizens debated

In the quiet, little town of Westbrook, Maine, older residents receive rides for their daily errands through a transportation network that provides door-to-door service at relatively low cost.

The Boone County Senior Board, citing a growing need for senior transportation service in the county, hopes to use Westbrook’s Independent Transportation Network as the model for a service here. Board Director Ann Gowans said she likes the Westbrook system, which relies on volunteers with private vehicles and paid drivers with donated cars, according to its Web site.