Stories written for the Columbia Missourian Newspaper, beginning with the most recent.
TODAY’S QUESTION: Do you think the newly proposed USDA guidelines for lunches are a good idea?
January 17, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CST
COLUMBIA — The USDA’s newly proposed guidelines could affect school lunches for 32 million children.
According to a report from The Associated Press, government-subsidized school cafeterias could have new standards for lunches. Some of the new USDA guidelines would make schools decrease sodium use, increase whole grains and serve lowfat milk.
For the first time, the law would extend nutrition standards to other foods sold in schools as well. This includes a la carte foods on the lunch line and snacks in vending machines.
About a third of children ages 6 to 19 are overweight or obese, according to the USDA.
Tom Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture, said something must be done about obesity in America or else it will “eat us alive in terms of health care costs.”
However, some school groups have criticized efforts to make meals healthier. Critics say it would be hard for already-struggling schools to pay for these new health requirements.
Do you think the newly proposed USDA guidelines for school lunches are a good idea?
UM curators hear of need for higher tuition
Campus administrators call for action, hope to keep increase below 10 percent
Friday, January 14, 2011 | 4:57 p.m. CST; updated 6:49 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 15, 2011
COLUMBIA — A tuition increase at University of Missouri System campuses in fiscal year 2012 is nearly a certainty, but UM System administrators who met with the Board of Curators on Friday said they hope to keep the increase below 10 percent.
The increase is necessary to compensate for a decline in state funding and rising student enrollment, according to presentations made by officials from each of the UM System’s four campuses on Friday.
There is an estimated $64.4 million funding gap in fiscal year 2012 across all four campuses — MU, University of Missouri-St. Louis, University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Missouri University of Science and Technology — without a tuition increase.
Nikki Krawitz, vice president for finance and administration, said declining state revenue makes a tuition increase necessary. “We don’t want to charge students more than we absolutely have to,” Krawitz said.
Tuition for undergraduates has remained constant for the past two years, even though state support was cut by 5 percent this year. Over the past 10 years, however, enrollment has grown 28 percent.
Tuition and fees have replaced state appropriations as the primary source of revenue for UM System operating budgets.
The cost of attending school at a UM System campus varies with the number of credit hours a student takes, any accompanying course fees or surcharges that apply and the student’s room-and-board expenses.
For a typical in-state undergraduate student at MU, 15 credit hours in a semester would cost $4,250. A 9 percent increase would boost that cost to $4,632.50, or a difference of $382.50. That assumes that all information technology, student activity, recreation facility and prepaid health fees remain the same. That price also does not include individual college fees, which are also set to increase.
By comparison, a 1 percent increase would cost an additional $42.50, a 5 percent increase an additional $212.50 and a 10 percent increase an additional $425.
Krawitz told the curators that a 1 percent increase would close the funding gap by $4.4 million, a 5 percent increase by $22.1 million and a 10 percent increase by $44.2 million. A 9 percent increase would generate $39.6 million in additional revenue.
The board plans on raising tuition by more than the expected inflation rate of 1.5 percent. To do so, it will have to file for a waiver from the commissioner of the Missouri Department of Higher Education.
The expected time line will be as follows:
- The waiver will be filed to the commissioner by Feb. 1.
- The commissioner will meet with the UM System staff by March 18.
- The commissioner will notify the UM System of the waiver decision by April 15.
- If a waiver is not granted, the UM System would have 10 days to amend the request, agree to any limits or maintain its original position, and board action would be required. This would all need to occur by April 27.
- The UM System will notify campuses of tuition and required fees by the end of April, and fees must be finalized 45 days before the beginning of a term to be effective.
The board will meet again on Jan. 27 to 28 and is scheduled to vote on recommended tuition and fees.
Krawitz said the board wants to be efficient with costs but also to “maintain quality” on the campuses. Krawitz said she hopes the board and the commission can act quickly enough to get tuition increases in place in time for summer sessions.
MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said many students base their college decision on the cost of the school and believe that more expensive schools are higher quality. He also said many out-of-state students come to
MU despite higher nonresident costs because of MU’s reputation.
Gov. Nixon announces increased scholarship amounts for students
January 13, 2011 | 5:36 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — Gov. Jay Nixon announced Thursday that the Missouri Department of Higher Education will increase scholarship amounts for students this academic year, according to a news release.
The news release stated that the new scholarship amounts will affect Missouri students under the Access Missouri program. These amounts include:
- An increase from $275 up to a maximum of $470 for qualifying students at public community colleges.
- An increase from $950 to a maximum of $1,010 for qualifying students at four-year public institutions.
- An increase from $1,900 to a maximum of $2,160 for qualifying students at private institutions.
According to the news release, these amounts reflect the maximum award a student would receive for both semesters of the 2010-11 school year. The fall 2011 scholarship amounts will be determined after the budget for the next fiscal year has been decided.
The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority might fund the Access Missouri scholarships, according to a previous Missourian article.
Under the Access Missouri program, 46,000 Missouri students would receive scholarships for the spring 2011 semester, the release stated. This year, the state is expected to invest about $58.7 million in Access Missouri.
“I am pleased my administration will be able to increase Access Missouri awards for this school year to help more students afford to earn their degree,” Nixon said in the release.
The release stated that Nixon has worked to make higher education a priority, which will be beneficial for many Missouri families. He said he plans to continue to prioritize funding for Missouri’s A+ Scholarship Program, in which the government covers the cost of tuition and other fees for students attending public community colleges for two years. These students must meet certain academic, service and conduct requirements, the release stated.
In addition, Nixon placed a two-year freeze on tuition at all Missouri public colleges and universities, the release stated.
“By giving more students access to higher education, we’re ensuring that Missouri has a workforce to compete for generations to come,” Nixon stated in the release.
Schedule of events for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations
January 13, 2011 | 1:38 p.m. CST
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 2011 celebration Calendar:
Columbia NAACP — annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Program
- 11 a.m. ceremony Monday at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Stadium Boulevard.
- The ceremony will be followed by a motorcade from Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to Second Baptist Church, 407 E. Broadway, where there will be a celebration program.
- There will be a free community luncheon following the program.
- For more information, contact Mary Ratliff at 445-3231 or 881-0163 or e-mail her at email@example.com.
Poor People’s Breakfast
- The breakfast will be held from 9 a.m. to noon Monday at St. Luke United Methodist Church, 204 E. Ash St.
- The event is free, but donations are welcome.
- For more information or to make a contribution, contact Almeta Crayton at 874-0284 or 529-2151.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Candlelight Walk and Celebration
- Participants gather at 6 p.m. Monday at the Douglass High School gym, 310 N. Providence Road.
- The walk begins at 6:30 p.m. and ends with a service at St. Luke United Methodist Church, 204 E. Ash St.
- For more information, contact Bill Thompson at 874-6379.
MU’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Lecture
- A light reception will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 26 in Memorial Union’s Stotler Lounge.
- A presentation of “A Lie Cannot Live: Rescuing Honest Political Debate from Apathy and Disengagement” with New York Times Columnist Charles M. Blow begins at 7 p.m.
- The event is free and open to the public.
- For more information contact the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative at 882-5838 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://mlk.missouri.edu/events/mu-feature.html.
UM Board of Curators to meet Friday morning
January 12, 2011 | 5:01 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — The UM System Board of Curators is holding a special meeting at 9:30 a.m. Friday in a public session to address multiple issues, but no decisions are expected to be made.
According to a news release, those issues include tuition and other enrollment fees, enrollment management, financial aid, 2012 fiscal year student activities, facility and health service fees and residence hall and family student housing rates.
The UM System may not increase tuition beyond the state rate of inflation without requiring a waiver application approved by the Department of Higher Education.
Although no actions regarding tuition are scheduled for Friday’s meeting, the approval of tuition and fees is expected at the Jan. 27-28 meeting.
Media will be in attendance via a TelePresence Center in Ellis Library Room 106A.
10 employees laid off at State Historical Society
January 10, 2011 | 5:13 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — The State Historical Society of Missouri announced Monday that it planned to lay off 10 employees.
While demonstrating the collections available in the society’s new online database during a news conference, society Executive Director Gary Kremer said a state budget cuts forced the layoffs. The loss of staff is happening even as the society takes over management of the Western Historical Manuscript Collection.
In November, the University of Missouri System transferred full management responsibility for the manuscript collection to the society. Still, funding for the society has decreased over the past year. There was a 25 percent cut in state funding for the Historical Society during fiscal 2010, which led to previous layoffs, as reported previously by the Missourian. The society also has had to cut back on its hours occasionally.
In addition to laying off 10 staff members, two vacant positions for the society will remain unfilled, according to Kremer.
The society will be closed until Jan. 18 so that its staff can consolidate its materials with those of the Western Historical Manuscripts.
Despite the cuts, society President Stephen Limbaugh Jr. said the organization would be “aggressive in seeking grants.”
Kremer said it the society will strive to provide the same quality of service.
Missouri State Historical Society creates online database
Monday, January 10, 2011 | 5:01 p.m. CST; updated 10:46 p.m. CST, Monday, January 10, 2011
COLUMBIA — Despite the 102-year difference, a 1909 print issue of the Columbia Missourian shared a similar headline with today’s online publication: heavy snow expected for Columbia.
Issues from the first 14 years of the Missourian, which was founded in 1908 as the University Missourian, along with thousands of other Missouri-related resources, are now easily available online.
The State Historical Society of Missouri has digitized thousands of editorial cartoons, articles, photographs and artworks that previously were available only by visiting the society at MU’s Ellis Library.
“This is a treasure trove of research material,” said Gary Kremer, executive director of the State Historical Society of Missouri.
Kremer said the effort to digitize the society’s collections is ongoing. By the end of February the society hopes at least 100,000 pages of newspapers from across the state, including the Kansas City Journal and St. Louis Republic, will be in the digital archive.
“We’re not going to get the whole collection,” Kremer said, explaining that the clarity of some of the images is poor and that it will be difficult to get everything into the database.
The society also hopes to digitize material from the “National Women in Media Collection” from the Western Historical Manuscript Collection. In a news release, Kremer said the society hopes to work with the Missouri School of Journalism to create the premier selection of works by female journalists in the country.
The database puts five collections of documents, photographs, newspapers and artwork into the hands of students, researchers and the public. Researchers can browse the collections by topic, dates or keyword terms.
“It is going to be incredibly important to researchers of all ages,” Kremer said.
The online collection also contains digital images of more than 400 works by Missouri artists George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Hart Benton, 3,500 photographs of Missouri people and locations, more than 2,000 issues of the St. Louis Daily Missouri Republican, more than 13,000 editorial cartoons and 150 transcripts and audio files of interviews with Missouri political leaders, including an interview with the late Gov. William Hearnes.
“Missourians ought to be able to access materials from their homes, libraries, schools and offices,” Kremer said in a news release. “We have an incredibly rich documentary and artistic heritage. It’s time we Missourians took greater notice of that reality.”
Rick Clay’s attorneys plan to petition Friday to halt his execution
January 6, 2011 | 5:40 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — Attorneys for Rick Clay plan on filing a petition Friday to halt the execution set for next week.
The defense originally planned to file the petition Thursday, as previously reported by the Missourian.
Clay was convicted of murder in 1994 and is set to be executed Jan. 12.
Clay’s attorneys say his conviction was based on circumstantial evidence because of a lack of physical evidence and eyewitnesses. He faces the death penalty in the murder of Randy Martindale, a car dealer in the Missouri Bootheel. Martindale’s wife was also convicted in the killing.
“We won’t be filing the petition with the Missouri Supreme Court until tomorrow (Friday),” said Jennifer Herndon, an attorney for Clay.
At a news conference in Jefferson City on Tuesday, Clay’s family and supporters urged the public to protest his execution.
Herndon said they are still planning to appeal to Gov. Jay Nixon for a grant of clemency, though she said the governor would not make a decision on the appeal until the last moment.
“The final clemency will be filed Monday,” she said. “We are still working on putting all of the information together for the clemency.”
Herndon said she is hoping that the Missouri Supreme Court will hear their plea for Clay.
“The evidence of his innocence and the evidence of the prosecutor’s misconduct are pretty substantial,” she said. “We feel that it’s clear that the Missouri Supreme Court doesn’t execute innocent people, so I hope that they will stop the execution.”
Herndon expects the court to rule on the petition Monday.
Cable negotiations have limited effect on Tigers basketball broadcasts
Wednesday, January 5, 2011 | 1:27 p.m. CST; updated 4:10 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 5, 2011
COLUMBIA — Despite the recent removal of KOMU from Mediacom’s line-up, Missouri basketball fans are still able to watch Wednesday night’s home game against North Alabama on Fox Sports Midwest.
According to David Reiter, director of media relations for MU athletics department, the cable dispute could really only affect two games — one next week against Nebraska and a Feb. 5 game against Colorado.
Reiter said all other televised games will appear either on national networks or on the Big 12 Network, of which KMIZ/Channel 17 is the local affiliate.
He said that if the negotiation between Mediacom and KOMU continue, the department would keep the negotiations in mind and attempt to get games switched to Fox Sports Midwest.
“We’ll do what we can to help our fans watch that game locally,” he said.
Reiter said he thinks fans are aware of the how to watch the top-10 ranked Tigers play. Tickets are still available to some home games.
The game starts at 7 p.m.
Columbia will vote on stipends for City Council
January 4, 2011 | 6:42 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — An amendment to the city charter that would pay stipends to members of the Columbia City Council will appear on the April 5 municipal ballot.
The stipends would be $9,000 for the mayor and $6,000 for other council members and would not take effect until 2014, after the terms of the present council members have ended.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said during a brief debate on the measure Monday night that in other cities stipends for city council members are “very common.”
“I signed on knowing there was no pay,” Hoppe said, but she added that she has found while attending conferences that few council members in other cities are uncompensated.
Voters have rejected stipends or salaries for City Council members in the past. A previous Missourian article explains the most recent proposal, as outlined in a letter submitted to the council Nov. 29.
Director of Convention and Visitors Bureau leaves Columbia
January 4, 2011 | 4:14 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — Lorah Steiner, director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, is leaving her position, City Manager Bill Watkins announced today.
After 24 years of serving as director, Steiner is moving to Charlotte County, Fla., to be the director of tourism. Watkins said Steiner’s last day will probably be Feb. 15 because she is starting her new position Feb. 28.
Steiner said she planned to retire in June, but when she found this opportunity, she changed her mind. She said the position in Florida had all the attributes she wanted and was a good fit.
“There was a heavy arts component, beautiful beaches, boating, fishing and the people. I really liked the people,” Steiner said. “I’m excited about the new adventure.”
Steiner said it has been an honor and a privilege to work for the city of Columbia. She said the perception of the community has changed in a positive way, and she is proud of the growth of the arts.
“Working with the arts and seeing its growth has been very special to me,” she said. “Over the last 10-15 years, Columbia has turned into a rich cultural community. I hope we’ve played a role in developing that.”
She has received many awards, both locally and statewide. She served as the president of Meeting Planners International – St. Louis and is the president of the Missouri Motion Media Association.
Before holding the director position, Steiner was the director of field marketing for the North Central and Southern U.S. for Ramada Corp.
According to the news release, Watkins and an advisory committee will begin searching nationally for a replacement in the upcoming weeks. An interim director will be named later.
Two men identified in Kilgore’s Pharmacy burglary
January 3, 2011 | 5:27 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — Two men have been identified in last week’s burglary of Kilgore’s Pharmacy.
Andre J. Harvey Jr., 18, and Dewayne Theodore J. Carter, 19, of Columbia were named as suspects in the Dec. 30 burglary of Kilgore’s Pharmacy at 700 N. Providence Road.
A third man, Fabian Goldman, 18, was arrested earlier on suspicion of second-degree burglary, first-degree property damage and stealing. He is being held in Boone County Jail with a bail of $30,000.
There is now probable cause for arresting Harvey and Carter in connection with the Dec. 30 burglary, according to Jill Wieneke of the Columbia Police Department.
Officers responded to a 911 call at about 3:30 a.m. A witness reported seeing a man try to throw a brick through the front of the pharmacy, according to a previous release from the police department.
Police at the scene saw a man running from the pharmacy. He was found later in the parking lot of Oaks Towers on North Garth Avenue.
In a review of a videotape, officers saw one man waiting outside the pharmacy as a lookout while two other men entered the business through the broken glass.
Goldman was identified as one of the three men, according to the release.
Families, volunteers enjoy First Night
January 1, 2011 | 4:16 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — Despite warm afternoon temperatures, families bundled up to attend this year’s First Night festivities.
“The weather is going to be beneficial for us this year,” Mary Martin, site manager for Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, said. “It’s cool, but it’s been bone-chilling cold before.”
Erin Carrillo and Courtney Deters, who both work for the Parks and Recreation Department, volunteered at First Night. Deters agreed that weather didn’t hurt the celebration.
“People still come despite the weather,” Deters said.
Deters and Carrillo helped kids make crowns, noise makers, masks and decorate buttons in Calvary Episcopal Church. The Parks and Recreation Department has hosted children’s activities for many years during First Night, Carrillo said.
“Every year, seeing the kids’ smiling faces makes the job worth it,” Carrillo said.
Devona Walker enjoyed watching her son hula-hoop and try on hats from Maude Vintage in Missouri United Methodist Church.
“We were going to walk around downtown and get frozen yogurt before going back to our place for the kids to have a little party,” she said of their evening plans.
Across the room, Janice and Joe Wieneman watched their daughter Holly get a hula-hooping lesson from a member of the St. Louis Hoop Club.
“It’s our first time at First Night, and we wanted to see the hula-hoopers because (Holly) likes to hula-hoop,” Janice Wieneman said.
Janice and Holly Wieneman were also there to watch Joe Wieneman perform on the mandolin in the Ironweed Bluegrass Band.
The Wienemans traveled to Columbia from Eldon for the festivities and said they hope come back next year.
“Holly clogs, so maybe we’ll bring the cloggers next year,” Janice Wieneman said.
Holly enthusiastically agreed.
“I can bring my friends,” she said.
Families and children were not the only ones enjoying First Night.
International student Annie Liao from Taiwan attended the celebration for the first time.
“It’s been pretty fun so far,” Liao said. ”I’ve really enjoyed the shows.”
Columbia resident Maggie Yoest has attended the festival numerous times.
“I like the local talent — especially the music,” Yoest said.
Yoest and her husband enjoyed Sean Hennessy’s jazz guitar at Columbia Art League Gallery before heading over to the performances at Missouri United Methodist Church.
This year was the first time Columbia’s First Night celebration didn’t include Stephens College, which meant all activities were within four blocks, Martin said.
“People may move from venue to venue because it’s all downtown,” Martin said.
Dan Neuharth, one of the volunteers stationed at downtown Calvary Episcopal Church, said he was excited to welcome people to the event.
“I just wanted to do something other than party or sit at home,” Neuharth said.
Police are investigating a commercial burglary and gas station robbery
December 31, 2010 | 5:43 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — Police have made one arrest and are working to identify two other suspects after a commercial burglary early Thursday morning.
Police also are seeking two men in connection to a gas station robbery that occurred last week.
At about 3:30 a.m. Thursday, Columbia police responded to a call about a burglary in progress at Kilgore’s Pharmacy, 700 N. Providence Road, a release from the Police Department stated. The witness who called it in reported seeing a man attempt to throw a brick through the front of the pharmacy.
When officers arrived they saw a man running from the pharmacy, the release stated. He attempted to flee on foot but was apprehended in the parking lot of Oak Towers on North Garth Avenue.
Fabian Goldman, 18, was arrested on suspicion of second-degree burglary, first-degree property damage and stealing. He was being held in the Boone County Jail with a bond of $30,000 as of 3:30 p.m. Friday.
After reviewing a video of the burglary, officers saw three men use a brick to break into a car in the parking lot of the pharmacy, the release stated. The video also showed the men breaking into the store. One of the men stayed outside as a lookout while the other two entered the business through the broken glass and stole the cash register from the business.
Police identified Goldman as one of the three men, the release stated. Officers are investigating the identity of the other two men.
Columbia Police were called to a robbery in progress about 4 a.m. on Dec. 21 at Midwest Petroleum, 2712 Paris Road, a Columbia Police Department release stated.
When officers arrived, the clerk working said two men in dark clothing and masks displayed handguns and entered the gas station. One of the men entered an enclosed area where the clerk was working, while the other stayed outside. The man then took money from the cash register, the release stated. Both men then fled. The clerk was not injured during the robbery.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Department attempted to track the suspects with their K9 unit but were unsuccessful, the release stated.
No suspects have been identified and no arrests have been made.
Anyone with any information about either of these incidents is encouraged to call Crimestoppers at 875-8477.
Man taken into custody after vehicle chase
December 29, 2010 | 3:42 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — A Columbia man was taken into custody after a vehicle and ground pursuit about 8 p.m. Tuesday.
The pursuit began after David Singleton Jr., 31, failed to yield when officers from the Pro-Active Patrol Unit of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department tried to stop him for a traffic violation on eastbound Interstate 70 near the U.S. 63 Connector, according to a Sheriff’s Department news release.
Sheriff’s Cpl. Chris Smith said in the release that the pursuit continued eastbound on I-70 until Singleton reached Route Z, where he left the interstate and began traveling eastbound on I-70 Drive Southeast.
Singelton left the roadway and then traveled through a residential lawn and into the woods, according to the release, and was captured by deputies as he attempted to run away.
Singleton was taken into custody on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine, driving with a suspended license, careless and imprudent driving, resisting and interfering with arrest for a felony and third-degree assault of a law enforcement officer.
His bond is set at $10,500.
Bridger enters not-guilty plea in shooting death of Aletha Turner
December 28, 2010 | 3:55 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — The Columbia man charged in the recent shooting death of Aletha M. Turner pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Tuesday afternoon in Boone County Circuit Court.
Ryan C. Bridger, 22, of Columbia entered his plea via video from the Boone County Jail, where he has been held since Dec. 21, first on a burglary charge and later on charges of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. A $1 million cash bond has been set.
Family members found Turner, 67, unconscious Dec. 20 in her Dewey Lane home in northeast Columbia. She died Dec. 22 at University Hospital. According to a probable-cause statement, Turner appears to have been shot on or about Dec. 17, three days before she was found.
A Dec. 23 autopsy found that Turner was shot in the head once. A piece of a small-caliber bullet was recovered.
According to two probable cause statements filed separately by the prosecutor’s office, Bridger admitted stealing a small-caliber handgun and keys to Turner’s home from the home of her brother, Spencer Turner, and his wife, Joan. Bridger also said he stole several items, including jewelry and a Wii game system from the couple while they were on vacation and pawned several of the items.
One of the statements says Bridger stole items from the Turners’ home on Mexico Gravel Road “on numerous occasions” while they were away. On Dec. 19, the Turners’ daughter noticed a suspicious car in the driveway and Bridger was found in the Turners’ home hiding in a closet, the statement said. He was detained for questioning and released.
Bridger also admitted stealing Aletha Turner’s checkbook and some jewelry from her home, according to one of the statements. It also states that there was no sign of forced entry into Turner’s home and that all the doors were locked.
Last week, Boone County Sheriff’s Detective Tom O’Sullivan said Bridger knew Turner because he was in a relationship with another niece.
Bridger’s preliminary hearing has been set for 2 p.m. Jan. 24 before Associate Circuit Judge Deborah Daniels.
Alternative fitness performers come to First Night
December 28, 2010 | 6:30 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — Hula-hoopers, fire-spinners, a juggler and more are set to give audiences a view into the world of alternative fitness at Columbia’s First Night celebration Friday.
“There has been national attention on alternative fitness, and I wanted to support that,” said Jane Accurso, the technical and entertainer director of First Night.
First Night is Columbia’s alcohol-free New Year’s Eve celebration. The 16th annual celebration includes more than 60 performers and activities at different downtown locations. First Night kicks off with a 5K Run/Walk at 4 p.m. and ends with a midnight fireworks show outside the Boone County Courthouse.
“All year around I keep a very close eye on the creative movement nationally, seeing what is of interest to people,” said Accurso, who works on the event throughout year.
As Accurso planned, two main themes unfolded, she said. The event’s activities and performances are centered on “alternative fitness fun” and “a girls’ night out.”
St. Louis Hoop Club
Michelle Schaeffer, who formed the the St. Louis Hoop Club in 2008, started hooping about two years ago after seeing a friend do it using a homemade LED hula-hoop.
“I thought it was just the most amazing thing, and I had to learn how to do it,” Schaeffer said.
The group focuses on hula-hoop dance education and performance in the St. Louis area. This will be the first year Schaeffer and her group perform at Columbia’s First Night.
“It is amazing for people of all ages and just makes people feel good,” she said of hula-hoop dancing.
“I think hula hooping is so fun. I’ve been wanting to get hula-hoopers for about three years now; I just couldn’t find an organized troupe,” Accurso said. “We have great hoopers around here but when I talked to them, they said they weren’t ready to do a performance. I did research and found the St. Louis Hoop Club.”
Schaeffer said the group hopes to involve the crowd.
“We are bringing extra hoops. For our more casual performances, we have more of an interactive aspect with the LED hoops,” she said. “We’re looking forward to having a great time with the kids and families.”
Fire Good Productions
Andrew Johnson and Matthew Christ started Fire Good Productions, a Columbia based fire-spinning troupe, in 2007. The group has five full-time performers and two prospects, Johnson said.
“(Fire-spinning) could be thought of as yoga or meditation,” Johnson said. “It benefits you a lot more than you think it would as far as physical fitness.”
This will be the second consecutive year the group has performed at First Night.
“More often than not we perform at things like music festivals and city events,” Johnson said.
Preparation for this year’s event took a little longer than most performances because of a piece specially choreographed for the event, Johnson said.
“It’s eclectic. It’s something you won’t see very often,” he said.
Although fire-spinning can be viewed as a form of meditation and is calming to some, it is still a dangerous craft, Johnson said.
“There’s always the danger of something bad happening, so it always makes us nervous, but we’re always excited to be a part of any performance,” he said. The group has had no accidents in its three years, Johnson said.
“It is professional, but relaxed. Enjoyable but safe,” he added.
Jason Hollandsworth, or “Juggling J,” is a Columbia juggler and joggler scheduled to perform at First Night. Joggling combines long-distance running and juggling.
Hollandsworth competed at the International Jugglers’ Association Festival and placed in a number of events including the 400-meter dash, 100-meter dash and relays.
He started in juggling in 2003 and has been dedicated ever since.
“My wife got me a gift card for Barnes and Noble and I couldn’t find any books among their five million books,” Hollandsworth said. “But I found the ‘Great Juggling Kit.’ It had three juggling balls and an instruction book. I opened it up that same day and learned that day too.”
Hollandsworth has participated in a number of festivals, birthday parties and a few corporate shows, but this is the first time he will perform at First Night. He plans to accompany the Columbia Track Club in the First Night 5K Run/Walk.
“I may not go as fast as some of the other guys, but I plan to joggle the whole time,” Hollandsworth said.
Hollandsworth said he will also be doing a one-hour stroll, juggling and interacting with others at the First Night event.
“I just always enjoy seeing people’s reactions and the excitement in the kids’ faces,” Hollandsworth said.
Although they may not all understand it, Hollandsworth’s family members are supportive of his juggling.
“My wife thinks I’m a big geek with the juggling and joggling, but I still really enjoy it and I don’t mind being a geek,” he said.
A complete listing of performers can be found on First Night’s website.
Man charged in Turner murder knew her through niece
December 24, 2010 | 12:28 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — The man charged in the shooting death of a woman in her northeast Columbia home was “in a relationship with the victim’s niece,” Boone County Sheriff’s Detective Tom O’Sullivan said.
Ryan C. Bridger, 22, was charged Thursday with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Aletha M. Turner, 67. Bridger has been held in the Boone County Jail since Tuesday on a burglary charge involving the home of someone Turner knew.
Turner was found unconscious by family members on Monday morning in her Breezewood Estates home and died Wednesday at University Hospital.
An autopsy on Thursday showed she had been shot once in the head. O’Sullivan declined to say what type of weapon was used and whether it had been recovered.
The Sheriff’s Department gave Bridger’s address as 726 D Demaret Drive, which is less than two miles from Turner’s home at 2641 Dewey Lane.
O’Sullivan would not be specific on how investigators came to focus on Bridger, who knew Turner through her niece. “As things started to progress, he became more and more of a suspect,” O’Sullivan said.
Turner, originally from Illinois, lived alone, O’Sullivan said. She was retired and kept to herself, he said.
Turner has family in the area, but they have directed questions to the police.
Online court records for Missouri show Bridger had past traffic violations and two charges of second-degree burglary pending, in addition to the most recent charges.
Investigators are working to gain a better sense of the sequence of events around the crime.
“We’re still trying to pin that down a little bit more precisely,” O’Sullivan said. “As of this time, I can’t tell you with any great degree of any specificity. I think some more analysis is going to have to be done.”
Death of Breezewood Estates resident is now homicide
December 22, 2010 | 6:32 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — A woman assaulted in her home off Lake of the Woods Road has died and her death is being investigated as a homicide, Boone County Sheriff’s Detective Tom O’Sullivan said.
Aletha M. Turner, 67, was found unconscious by relatives Monday morning at her Dewey Lane home in the Breezewood Estates subdivision in northeast Columbia. Boone County Sheriff’s Department deputies and emergency personnel responded to the family’s calls about 8:30 a.m.
“It was obvious to us at the call that these were substantial injuries,” O’Sullivan said.
Turner was taken to University Hospital, where she died about 3 p.m. Wednesday. A news release from the Boone County Sheriff’s Department said an autopsy is scheduled to determine an exact cause of death.
O’Sullivan said about 25 officers are working on the case.
“We’re keeping an open mind and going with the leads,” O’Sullivan said. The department has not ruled out any scenarios, he added.
No suspects have been named.
Asked whether the community should be worried, O’Sullivan said, “People should always be cognizant of their surroundings and personal security.” It’s unfortunate, he continued, that an event of this nature makes people think of these things.
Anyone with information about the crime is urged to call CrimeStoppers at 875-8477.
City tentatively approves solar energy lease
December 22, 2010 | 3:23 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — The City Council approved a lease at its meeting Monday evening to bring solar power equipment to Columbia.
The lease was signed with Omaha-based Free Power Co., which provides customers with solar panels to lower the cost of energy.
Connie Kacprowicz, spokeswoman for the Columbia Water and Light Department, said Tuesday the company can now continue the process of site selection with the city on Jan. 3, after which it will deliver the solar panels and later begin installation.
Kacprowicz said a likely site for the project under consideration is the department’s West Ash Street pumping station at Bernadette Drive and Tiger Lane.
Kacprowicz said Water and Light is responsible for site preparation such as fencing or necessary tree removal and for connecting the solar panels to the city’s power grid.
The city’s initial investment will be the money spent on site development, Kacprowicz said.
“If they don’t deliver power, then we don’t pay for it,” she said.
The lease stipulates that Free Power Co.’s solar panels will produce 6,000 megawatt-hours annually by Sept. 30, 2011, and 12,000 megawatt-hours annually by Sept. 30, 2012. The city will pay a monthly leasing fee of $54 per megawatt hour.
“The benefit is enormous — solar power at a cheap price,” Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said at the council meeting.
But although the agreement passed 6-1, council members raised questions about Free Power Co.
“There is concern because we didn’t get a lot of information, and there are unanswered questions.” Hoppe said.
Mayor Bob McDavid voted “a timid yes” while other council members expressed apprehension about the quick time frame and lack of information.
“It seems to be high pressure tactics to get it done and get it done now without a plan,” Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser, who opposed the measure, said at the meeting.
“They are telling us how fast the horse is but we can’t see the race,” Fourth Ward Councilman Darryl Dudley said at the meeting.
Water and Light Director Tad Johnsen said the department has been talking with Free Power since September or October, though the council has only been discussing this issue for about a month.
Johnsen said Wednesday the department did not initially know that the agreement had to be signed by Dec. 21, but as the process developed Free Power Co. wanted an agreement for tax incentives.
Despite the concerns, council members did express their trust in the Water and Light department.
“I don’t like making decisions when I don’t have answers, but I have confidence in Water and Light,” Nauser said Tuesday.
City Council approves drafting alcohol ban in three city parks
December 20, 2010 | 10:40 p.m. CST
COLUMBIA — The City Council voted Monday night to move forward with drafting an ordinance that would ban alcohol in three of the city’s public parks.
“The parks will be more attractive for our citizens,” Police Chief Ken Burton said.
Police said they have had trouble with intoxicated people in the parks, citing homeless individuals as a main source of the problem, according to a previous Missourian article. But increased patrols and trespassing warnings have not proven to be effective, Police Capt. Dianne Bernhard said in a Parks and Recreation Commission Review meeting Dec. 9.
“This ordinance will allow us to administer public drunkenness,” Burton said.
Currently, city law prohibits drinking on city streets and sidewalks and in parking garages. Burton noted at the council meeting that transporting and holding people for public drunkenness is costly.
The new ordinance would allow signs prohibiting alcohol to be posted at the three downtown parks. Police would also be allowed to handle alcohol violations in parks as they would handle violations of the open container law.
According to Columbia Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood, alcohol would only be allowed in the parks with a special-use permit issued by the department. Hood said exceptions to the ordinance could be made for certain community events and activities.
Individuals found in violation of this ordinance would be given a court summons and asked to leave the park.