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Presiding with experience

For years Bob Aulgur spent his days in the courtroom defending and prosecuting local residents, but now he has taken a seat on the other side of the bench.

Aulgur is the new presiding municipal judge for Columbia and brings with him years of experience as a local defense attorney and assistant county prosecutor.

28 people, 112 gifts: 1 headache

It’s that time of year again. I’m up to my eyeballs with lists of things to do so that I can “enjoy” the holidays. And heading the list is shopping for gifts. I try to buy each member of the family four gifts — one nice present and three stocking stuffers. With 28 folks in this family, you do the math.

If you’ve been reading my column, you know I began shopping for presents the week after last Christmas. This worked fairly well when the grandchildren were younger because they were delighted with anything I gave them. And that’s still the case with my two 2-year-olds. I’ve never understood why parents spend more than $10 on babies who couldn’t give a whit about what’s in the package and are quite content tearing paper and eating ribbon.

Bringing in the flock

In a low, clear voice, Arthur Case asks his dog, Kate, to “come bye.” The 6-year-old Border collie bears down and edges her way toward a flock of sheep that waits at the fence line. Case lifts the temporary barrier, and Kate drives the sheep past their owner and along the Missouri River bottom levee where they were grazing.

“She’s the one I have to rely on,” Case says as Kate leads the ewes to a driveway that winds up to his rural Hartsburg home. “She saves me a half-mile walk every day,” he continues, gesturing toward the muted copper hillside that surrounds his property in the distance.

Schools pursue new fund ruling

JEFFERSON CITY— Having lost before a trial judge, some school districts on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to consider their claim that Gov. Bob Holden exceeded his constitutional powers by cutting state school spending to balance the budget.

At issue is Holden’s decision to withhold nearly $200 million from elementary and secondary education this year, claiming the legislature failed to provide sufficient revenue to cover the budgeted expenses.

Her room is waiting

Rosalina smiles out from a photograph above Butch and Debbie Putnam’s desks. Her little-girl pigtails, mischievous-looking dimples and big brown eyes could break the heart of anyone, but none more so than the woman who was so close to calling Rosalina her daughter.

The Putnams have been trying to adopt the 6-year-old from Guatemala for almost two years.

Pizza-man bandit robs late-night deliverers

Five food delivery drivers have been threatened and robbed by a man wielding a wooden club in less than a month, according to Columbia police.

On Wednesday, two food delivery drivers were robbed of cash in separate incidents, the fourth and fifth such robberies since the middle of October, according to Columbia Police.

MU puts deadline on audits

Academic programs under review at MU have two months to justify their existence.

Six departments that include programs targeted for review will be required to submit a detailed report of their operations, which will be evaluated according to four criteria developed by a subcommittee of MU’s Strategic Planning and Resource Advisory Council.

Ashland gets a jump-start

The lights went off in Ashland last week, and when they came back on, they were powered by a temporary transformer on the back of a truck at AmerenUE’s facility at New Bloomfield in Callaway County.

A tap changer, a device that regulates voltage for a power transformer, exploded Nov. 4, Ameren spokesman Mike Cleary said.

Park road plans draw opposition

The Russell property won’t be cut in two if the Parks and Recreation Commission has its way.

At a public hearing Thursday night, the commission voted to recommend a development option for the property that would not extend Cunningham Road through the 90-acre park. The property was donated to the city by the late F. Garland Russell in April 1999.

It’s curtains up at school plays

Dressed in black, Hickman sophomore Brandon Davis listens for his cue over his headset, both hands clenching the vertical rope. All at once, he furiously begins pulling, alternating hands to reach above his head and pull down the rope. Slowly and steadily, the curtain opens on the first scene of Hickman High School’s “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

The musical, which has been in rehearsalfor seven weeks, will open Wednesday and run through Nov. 22.

Projects spur call for road analysis

Traffic problems on Route WW seem to be mounting, and some Boone County officials believe they are destined to get worse.

That’s why they want to take the lead on a study of traffic patterns along the highway, which bisects a corridor that’s increasingly ripe for development.

Taming the black walnut

Many mid-Missourians know the Eastern black walnut by those large, green balls with a slightly pungent aroma that litter lawns and sidewalks this time of year. Encased in their protective husks is an inner shell that makes even the heartiest squirrel think twice, giving this cousin of the more popular English walnut the reputation of being a tough nut to crack.

Researchers at MU’s Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center in New Franklin are hoping to change this. While black walnut connoisseurs are willing to put in the extra effort to get at the fruit’s strong, flavorful nutmeat, researchers at the center hope to boost the black walnut’s commercial prospects by improving the characteristics of Missouri’s state tree nut.

Columbia Mall to get new look

General Growth Properties, Inc., announced plans this morning to redesign Columbia Mall's food court. The food court's current design has been in place since 1985.

The construction plan, which has been in the works for a couple of years, includes expanding the window wall of the Cafe Court into a rotunda shape and giving the indoor atmosphere a "streetscape design."

Fans, troops to connect

A halftime show of a different kind is in store for fans Saturday at MU’s football game against Texas A&M. A live feed from Baghdad will connect deployed Missouri Guardsmen with the fans at Memorial Stadium.

With a potential attendance of more than 60,000 people, this could be the largest videoconference in history, according to Lt. Col. Thomas Smith.

Families prepare for deployment

Half of the 128th National Guard unit based in Columbia — 248 members — is preparing to leave for Fort Sill, Okla., on Tuesday. Members of the artillery unit must report to the Armory north of Columbia on Sunday.

As the one-year mark for mass troop deployment to Iraq approaches, the U.S. government is preparing to relieve soldiers who will soon complete their tour of duty.

State to question tax credits

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Attorney General’s office said Wednesday it is investigating allegations that taxpayer dollars are paying for equipment for businesses that exist only on paper.

“We will investigate this matter without fear or favor,” said Ted Ardini of the Attorney General’s office. He made the announcement to the Joint Committee on Tax Policy. The investigation of these “phantom” businesses is focused on the Rebuilding Communities Tax Credit Program, which offers tax credits for Missouri companies purchasing technical equipment such as computers and medical devices. The program provides tax credits for up to 40 percent of the equipment costs for eligible businesses. The program is designed to attract high-tech companies to poor communities.

The buck stops here

Deer hunter Ray Parsons hopes to harvest as many does as he can this firearms deer season. Parsons bought two bonus tags for himself and his grandson Chris Snell on Tuesday at the Wal-Mart Supercenter. If he fills those, he said, he’ll come back and buy more.

“I buy all the tags I can get, and I usually fill them,” said Parsons, one of many hunters browsing Wal-Mart’s hunting section in advance of the 11-day deer season that begins Saturday morning.

Role reversal

In the Adams family, everyone is learning tae kwon do at Hockman’s ATA Black Belt Academy on Buttonwood Drive.

The children — Jordan, 13, Jackson, 12, Taylor, 11, and Becca, 8 — started classes about three years ago. Their father, John, has taken lessons for a little more than a year; their mother, Krista, for 2 1/2 years.

Scientist gets in close to her animal work

Temple Grandin has been known to get down on hands and knees to see why pigs and cattle balk at going up a ramp before they’re slaughtered. To understand what the animals are thinking, she puts herself in their place. “For a pig’s-eye view, you’ve got to get down really low,” she said.

One-third of all cattle slaughter plants in the United States use equipment designed by Grandin, an animal science professor at Colorado State University who has made a career out of making slaughter plants more humane. The United States processes 100,000 cattle every day.

Garth Avenue sparks safe crossing debate

Every school day for the past seven years, Charlie Knipp has stood on the northwest corner of Parkade Boulevard and Garth Avenue in front of Parkade Elementary School.

With a friendly greeting and a warm smile, he shuttles kids back and forth across both streets on their way to and from school. Cars honk as they pass; he waves.

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