Panama Canal expansion could impact Missouri ports

MODOT officials say the widened canal will open more freight shipment opportunities to Missouri.

Franklin School construction proceeds as planned

The $10 million project is being constructed next to the old school. It will open for the 2012 school year.

Dino's Pizza damaged by fire

The Cape Girardeau Fire Department estimates $250,000 in damages, but the building is not a total loss.

Mississippi River Basin nitrate pollution remains high

Nitrates flowing from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico contribute to the formation of areas known as dead zones.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Isle of Capri pours casino basin

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Isle of Capri casino construction took a big step forward Tuesday night.

Construction crews poured a 41 thousand square foot concrete slab for over 12 hours. The slab will serve as the basin where the casino floor will float.

Missouri law requires that casinos are built within 1000 feet of a river and the gaming floor must float.

Isle of Capri’s Vice President of Design and Construction Dick Meister explained the casino's requirements according to Missouri law.

"In Missouri we can build a basin of 41,000 square feet and then put a barge of about 41,000 square feet and let it float. As long as there is two feet of water under the barge and a couple of feet on either side to swim around. However, when you walk into the barge, at end of the day, inside the building, you will not know that you have gone from the building to barge and back and forth. It’s a very seamless transition the way these are built now,” Meister said.

The concrete was poured overnight so that concrete trucks would not interfere with traffic.

Approximately 40 concrete trucks per hour arrived at the construction zone, hauling concrete from three Delta plants in Cape Girardeau and Jackson.

Meister says the basin must be completely flat. It cannot be off by more that one-eighth of an inch throughout it’s forty-one thousand square feet.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Southeast student discovers shipwreck

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Missouri State University student Jennifer Rickard made the discovery of a lifetime during a summer program in Spain: the remains of a shipwreck deep in the Mediterranean waters.

Rickard was studying at the Cavalleria Ecomuseum when she and six other divers made the discovery.

The ship dates to the sixteenth or seventeenth century and was badly charred by fire.

Rickard says she was not expecting to find a shipwreck that day.

'They had told us to due magnitronomy and also some other indications that there possibly was one in that area, we did end up discovering it through a mass amount of dead seaweed that had been underneath us," Rickard said.

Jennifer was granted a scholarship from the Harryette Campbell Foundation to help fund the program.

Rickard's says she hopes to continue studying maritime archaeology for her masters and PhD.

Lauren Campbell, KRCU

MICDS gets $21.5 million gift

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - A St. Louis County private school has received a $21.5 million donation from the James S. McDonnell family.

Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School, or MICDS, will use the money to build a new, 52,000 square-foot science and math facility.

MICDS head of school, Lisa Lyle, says the goal is to involve students in the process of scientific research.

"These new lab facilities – the normal classroom/lab environment which is large and well-equipped, as well as the two research spaces – will give every child in the school the opportunity to engage deeply with hands-on, inquiry-based learning," Lyle said.

Lyle says having a research facility on campus will allow students to work with St. Louis-area professionals on long-term research projects.

"It will give us a chance to partner with local bench scientists, and it will give our kids exposure to the kinds of thinking and the habits of mind required to do sustained research," Lyle said.

Lyle believes plant science and medical research will continue to play an important role in the St. Louis economy in the future and wants MICDS students to be prepared.

The school hopes to begin construction on its new facility in the summer of 2012.

The McDonnell family's donation is the largest in the school’s history and the second largest ever to any grade or high school in the region.

James S. McDonnell III graduated from St. Louis Country Day School in 1954. His wife, Elizabeth Hall McDonnell, graduated from Mary Institute in 1958.

James S. McDonnell III is the son of James S. McDonnell, Jr., founder of the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Crowell is not alone in opposition to tax credits for international trade hub.

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - One State Senator was not alone in opposition to a bill creating tax credits for an international trade hub in St. Louis.

Southeast Missouri Senator Jason Crowell attacked the bill during an open meeting Tuesday, resulting in little compromise.

Chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee Chuck Purgeson says Crowell wasn't the only one opposing the legislation.

"There's an opportunity to have a lot of changes based on conversations I've had with individual Senators on directions they think the bill needs to go, you know, that's part of our legislative process," Purgeson said.

Lawmakers will discuss the bill next week during a special session.

Stacey Kafka, Missouri Digital News

Samuel says Redhawks match up well against SIU

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - When the Southeast Missouri State University Redhawks face off against the Southern Illinois Salukis on Saturday, it could boil down to a battle between the two defenses.

Coach Tony Samuel says the Redhawks have experience in key defensive players Tylor Brock and Bryan Blanfort, who are capable of containing the Salukis’ dynamic quarterback Paul McIntosh.

"We’ve got some good defensive linemen. If you look at our two safeties, Blanfort missed last year, but he was a guy that was doing some good things the year before he was hurt, and he’s back at full strength. Brock had a great season last year," Samuel says.

Coach Samuel says that Southern Illinois will be strong and that they have a lot of threats on the field.

"They are a very good football team, you know, they have some returners. They’re very strong on the offensive line. I think they have the team speed on defense, the quarterback is back. This is his third year as a starter. He started some games last year...the year before, and it looks like now he’s the definite starter," Samuel says.

Samuel says while the Salukis have a strong offensive unit the Redhawks’ defense will be able to hold up against them.

Southeast Missouri State University opens their season at home this Saturday at 6pm.

Drew Yount, KRCU

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nixon calls for performance-based higher education funding

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Governor Jay Nixon announced a shift in Missouri’s higher education formula at last week’s Higher Education Summit.

Nixon wants to change to a performance-based model instead of an across-the-board approach when higher education allocations increase.

Mineral Area College president Steve Kurtz is strongly in favor of basing funding by meeting key performance indicators. He says his college already keeps track of many of the indicators the state will likely use.

"For us, we already have that culture at the institution," Kurtz said. "It’s just, how do we move with the implementation of a performance-funding model?"

Southeast Missouri State University president Ken Dobbins also favors a performance model and Southeast already tracks its own performance as a whole and within departments. He hopes the governor looks at a rolling average instead of basing funding on individual years because one cannot predict when budget increases will appear and an off year on benchmarks is always possible.

"A three to five year average I think everyone has agreed that’s good both on the numbers you are looking at so far as the benchmarking and also for the overall percentage that you’re going to get of new funding," Dobbins said.

The model is still under development. Officials from the Department of Higher Education indicate there will be three or four statewide goals for each institution to meet and each college and university will choose an additional goal of its own.

The key performance indicators have not yet been decided, but they could include goals for retention rates, degree attainment, student success and quality of student learning, to give a few examples.

The model will be approved Higher Education Commission in December.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

McCaskill says Joplin recovery funds are not in jeopardy

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill says federal funding for Joplin is not in jeopardy.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials said last week that funding for some long-term projects in the tornado-ravaged town would be put on hold because of Hurricane Irene.

McCaskill said she was worried initially but says she got a better explanation over the weekend.

"I do now realize that the only proposed shift was in order to meet immediate emergency needs in areas that have been impacted given how much money is left in the disaster fund between now and the end of the year," McCaskill says.

That fund has less than one billion dollars with the fiscal year ending in just over a month.

McCaskill says the U.S. House has passed the appropriation for the disaster fund for next year’s budget and she expects the Senate will do the same.

The Missouri Democrat says she’ll be watching to make sure Joplin gets the money it’s been promised.

Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio

Nixon defends withholds from 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - Governor Jay Nixon is defending his decision to withhold more than $170 million from Missouri’s 2012 budget, despite a state lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

Before the start of the current budget year, the Democrat announced that his administration would withhold funds from more than 40 state programs, partially to help pay for disaster relief.

State auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican, filed suit, saying that the governor can only do so if revenue is coming in below projections.

Speaking after a ribbon cutting in north St. Louis County, Nixon called such withholdings a common practice.

"Spending your accounts to zero is not the way to start a fiscally prudent year," Nixon said. "In order to have the resources to meet the obligations we have, me and governors over the last 40 years have done the exact same thing."

Nixon said he reached the $170 million figure by cutting out revenue that lawmakers included but never passed legislation to collect.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Monday, August 29, 2011

Southeast Missouri State University announces 2011-2012 Speakers Series

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Missouri State University’s Speakers Series will kick off on September 20 with Lisa Ling.

Other speakers on this year’s schedule include Michael J. Fox, Kurt Warner, Douglas Wilder and Bill Ney the Science Guy.

The University’s Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Success is Dennis Holt. He says students draw up a list of speakers and work with university officials to arrange the final lineup.

"We look for a diversity of topics that relate to the educational mission of the university," Holt says. "We look for a diversity of speakers. And we look at political topics, personal development, science education and a range of goals and objectives."

The Speakers Series is now in its third year.

Holt says students help compile a list of speaker they would like to see.

"The average cost for speakers at this level is between 50 thousand and 80 thousand dollars for one appearance," Holt says. "The cost of these speakers is significant and the funds are there to cover it and we attempt to be very judicious in how we spend those funds."

Funding for the Speakers Series comes from student fees.

In addition to their presentations, speakers must participate in outreach programs to students and the community.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Wehrenberg adopts zero-tolerance cell phone policy

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - If you went to a Wehrenberg movie theatre this weekend, you may have noticed announcements about the theatre chain’s new “zero-tolerance” approach to cell phones.

Starting on September 15, movie-goers who talk on their cell phones or send text messages during a movie will be asked to leave the theatre without a refund. Wehrenberg is playing pre-recorded messages prior to movies, using on-screen announcements and handing out brochures to inform movie-goers about the upcoming policy change.

Wehrenberg spokesperson Kelly Hoskins says large, back-lit screens interrupt the movie experience for many customers. But she says this is nothing new in the movie theatre industry.

"We’ve always had a problem with communication in an auditorium," Hoskins says. "We either had excessive talking through the 60s or 70s, or feet on the back of the seats. There’s always been a difficult time interacting sometimes with other people inside an auditorium. Now in this day and age it happens to be cell phones."

Other theatre companies block cell phone signal in auditoriums, but Hoskins says Wehrenberg chose against this course of action out of respect for parents, doctors and emergency officials who still need to be in contact with the outside world during a film.

"We felt by leaving it up to the individuals and then drawing a line in the sand with this no-refund situation, that everybody can take care of themselves and learn better manners and put their phone on vibrate," Hoskins says. "They can still be in touch with the outside world, but we’re just being a little kinder to those movie-goers around us."

Hoskins says 90 to 95 percent of customer reaction to the policy change has been positive.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

State Housing Commission approves plan to reduce homelessness

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCUR) - Missouri’s Housing Commission has approved the use of more than $100 million in tax credits to create long-term housing for people with special needs.

Francie Broderick, with Places for People in St. Louis, attended the commission vote in Kansas City. She says for organizations like hers, which provides services for people with mental illnesses, the commission’s new policy is historic.

"I’ve been working in this field for almost 40 years and there’s still mentally ill people homeless in my parking lot and that’s just horrible," Broderick says. "So this is going to make a real difference, this will create a pool of money that wasn’t available to us before to supported housing."

Broderick says in the past, it’s been difficult to compete with large developers to get funds from the commission for projects geared towards people with special needs.

Her organization was one of just three special needs housing projects that did get funding from the housing commission last year. But she says this new policy will expand those opportunities across the state.

Elana Gordon, KCUR

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tony Samuel confident in Redhawks running game

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Southeast Missouri State University football team is trying to build on last season’s record- setting campaign. 

The Redhawks won the Ohio Valley Conference last season but pre-season polls show Jacksonville State is the favorite to win the conference this year. The Redhawks are picked to finish fourth.

Coach Tony Samuel says his team isn’t looking at the big picture just yet.

"We’re basically preparing ourselves for this first game. We’ve got a lot of new people. There are some new coaches, new players, and we’re just trying to put everything together for that moment," Samuel says.

The team lost several of last season’s starters to graduation, including running back Henry Harris.

Coach Samuel says Harris was a big part of last season's success. But there are several players who are stepping up to fill his shoes this season.

"We’ve got about 3 or 4 kids, I think, that can carry the weight at the halfback position and we’ve got some new fullbacks as well, but we’ve got about 2 or 3 kids that are starting to show up," Samuel says. "Lennies McFerren is one of them. Levi Terrell is another one. There are a couple other kids that are starting to show up, but we’re gonna use about 2 or 3 running backs."

The Redhawks host Southern Illinois in the season opener Saturday, September 3, at 6pm.

Drew Yount, KRCU

MAC receives EPA training grant

PARK HILLS, MO (KRCU) - Mineral Area College is the recipient of a $190,000 grant to provide lead contamination cleanup training.

It’s part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s remediation project in St. Francois County.

Program Director Doug Lawson says training will be offered for four groups of twenty four individuals who want to work on environmental cleanup projects. Lawson says the contamination comes from St. Francois county’s days as a lead mining powerhouse.

"Unfortunately there wasn’t much regulation and the communities were left with contaminated materials spread throughout," Lawson says. "It’s just been known to cause developmental problems in younger children. Its been tested so they want to remove it to keep them from having access on something that could cause developmental damage to them in a young stage of life."

The application deadline is September 9th for the first of four training programs. Training will run between September 26th to October 6th.

Lauren Campbell, KRCU

Missouri Foundation for Health names new president and CEO

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - The Missouri Foundation for Health has named a new president and CEO.

Robert Hughes will assume his new post on November 1st, taking over from founding president James Kimmey who is retiring at the end of this year.

Hughes is an Illinois native but has spent the past 20 years in New Jersey. There, he worked for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest health philanthropy in the U.S.

He says his first priority will be getting to know Missouri.

"I really want to get out and understand what the health issues are across the region, and I think any subsequent decisions about where the Foundation goes will be influenced by what I learn, and the kind of feedback that I get from community leaders and health leaders across the area," Hughes says.

Hughes says under his leadership the Missouri Foundation for Health will continue to serve as a source of information on federal healthcare policy.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Nasheed doesn't mind if local control is pushed back in agenda

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - One of the leading supporters of local control for the St. Louis Police Department says she doesn’t mind if the issue is pushed back in the legislative agenda.

The Senate's top leader, Rob Mayer refused a Senate vote on local control of the St. Louis Police Department until tax credits were dealt with first.

St. Louis Democratic Representative, Jamilah Nasheed is a lead supporter of the local control issue and says she will respect Mayer's decision on what he thinks is important.

"Quite frankly I don't have a problem with that," Nasheed says.

However, before local control can be addressed the House must approve the restricting tax credits for the China hub.

Becky May, Missouri Digital News

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Southeast receives grants from Missouri Arts Council

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Missouri Arts Council awarded nearly $40,000 in grant funding to Southeast Missouri State University.

The money will go towards the Symphony Orchestra concert series, a traveling exhibit at the Crisp Museum and the “Big Muddy” literary journal. The funds will also bring guests artists for the department of Theatre and Dance Production of Hamlet and to fund the residency of a guest choreographer.

Over fifteen thousand dollars will support the symphony. Artistic director Sara Edgerton says the funds will help bring first class talent to the River Campus.

"“This grant we wrote for this symphony series will enable to bring in some really great guest artists not only to perform with the symphony, but also to do master classes and outreach activities in the community," Edgerton says.”

Guest artists for the symphony orchestra include Mark O’Connor and Allen Vizzutti.

Lauren Campbell, KRCU

Smoking rates down in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCUR) - A recent survey finds fewer Missourians are lighting up.

A decade ago more than one in four Missourians smoked. Now it’s down to one in five. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control’s latest annual phone survey.

Kendre Israel, with the state’s tobacco prevention coalition, says Missouri’s decline has outpaced a lot of other states – falling from the third to the eleventh highest smoking rate in the nation since 2004. She says a big increase in smoke-free work place laws across the state partly accounts for this drop.

"You know, those protect people from dangers of second-hand smoke exposure, but they also increase the likelihood people never start people smoking, helps people quit, it helps change social norm in their environment," Israel says.

Israel says other services to help people stop smoking, like Missouri’s quit line, also play a role. Missouri’s smoking rate is still higher than the national average, and Israel says more could be done, including raising the state’s cigarette tax, enacting a state-wide smoking ban, and funding state prevention programs.

Elana Gordon, KCUR

Nixon wants to move nonviolent offenders to treatment centers, probation

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - Members of Missouri's executive, legislative and judicial branches are teaming up on a new project aimed at keeping nonviolent offenders out of prison.

Governor Jay Nixon and other top officials announced a plan they say will help reduce the costs of running the state's prisons.

A new bipartisan group is now looking for ways to put the state's nonviolent offenders in treatment centers and probation programs in order to keep them out of prison.

Nixon says similiar policies in Kansas, Arkansas and Kentucky have saved those states money.

"While the simple act of a crime and the simple act of a life might be one act at one point, this is a very complex social issue," Nixon says.

Nixon says he hopes proposed legislation will be ready this winter.

Elizabeth Hagedorn, Missouri Digital News

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Judge rules against Commander Premier

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Commander Premier saga is one step closer to a conclusion.

A bankruptcy judge in Texas sided against the airplane manufacturer and in favor of the City of Cape Girardeau Tuesday. Commander Premier did not send representatives to appear in front of judge Bill Parker.

The decision opens the door for the city to proceed with Commander’s eviction from the city-owned hangar at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

Over the weekend, Commander Premier executives sent an open letter to the Southeast Missourian, which stated that residents pressured city officials to take action against the cash-strapped company.

City manager Scott Meyer was intrigued by Commander’s strategy.

"It’s just kind of interesting that Commander had time to kind of lay it on the backs of Cape Girardeau citizens. They had time for all of that," Meyer says. "But they didn’t have time to appear in front of the judge and make and their case. It’s just kind of interesting what they chose to spend their time doing."

Meyer says the city should be able to proceed with the eviction within 14 days.

Commander Premier has not paid rent at the hangar since 2007.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

International student population continues to grow at Southeast

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - International student enrollment is continuing to grow at Southeast Missouri State University.

Zahir Ahmed, Executive Director of International Education and Services, says international students are choosing majors throughout the University, but are specifically drawn towards business and polytechnic studies.

The international population has grown about 16% over the last year.

"We now have roughly around 710 students, by the end of the first week probably around 715 to 720 international students from 48 different countries," Ahmed says. "That’s a growth of over 100 students from last fall."

Ahmed says most students are coming from Asian countries, specifically China and India. But he adds that all global regions are represented on campus.

Drew Yount, KRCU

Educators working with sponsor on fix for "Facebook" law

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - A group of educators led by the Missouri National Education Association says its confident it can strike a deal with lawmakers to settle confusion over a new state law governing how students and teachers interact using social media like Facebook.

The law, the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, blocks students and teachers from communicating privately on electronic media without a third party present. For example, an e-mail between a student and teacher would have to be copied to someone else as well.

Teachers have expressed concern that the law would prevent them from "friending" students on Facebook even after the students have left their classroom. Other say the laws would prevent teachers who are also parents from emailing or texting with their child if the child has ever also been their student.

The Missouri State Teachers Association has filed suit, claiming the law is too broad and infringes on the First Amendment rights of its members.

Kit Crancer, the chief of staff to the act's sponsor, Republican state Senator Jane Cunningham of Chesterfield, said the changes would be minimal.

"Frankly, we’re in favor of the provisions which are blocking private communication between an instructor and a student," Crancer said. "We want to clarify and at least provide guidelines for all the instructors in the state."

Crancer and Otto Fajen, the legislative director for the MNEA, met on Tuesday to start discussions about the changes. Both are confident a deal can be worked out to get the new language included in the special session that starts Sept. 6, but Fajen says teachers shouldn't panic if that doesn't happen.

"There’s no need, from our perspective, for teachers to try to independently decipher what this all means," Fajen said. "They can just kind of look to, 'what does my supervisor say is the policy?'"

A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon, who sets the agenda for a special session, would not say if the session would be expanded if a compromise could be reached.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Mo. Senate Appropriates Chair says Nixon's disaster spending is unconstitutional

JEFFERSON CITY, MO (MISSOURI DIGITAL NEWS) - The Senate appropriations chair says Governor Jay Nixon's natural disaster spending is unconstitutional.

Central Republican Kurt Schaefer agrees with the state auditor that Nixon's funding of natural disaster relief violates the Missouri constitution.

He says there's no basis for Nixon's spending on disaster recovery without approval of the state legislature.

"The basis of withholding money on public education, on the concept that we have to spend it somewhere else--on natural disasters, for example--there's nothing that backs that up," Schaefer says.

The state auditor's office previously released a statement condemning Nixon's spending.

A spokesman at the Governor's office refused to be recorded.

Scott Kanowsky, Missouri Digital News

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Missouri State Teachers Association challenges Facebook law

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Missouri State Teachers Association is challenging a controversial social media law in the courts.

The MSTA filed the petition with the Cole County Circuit Court on Friday.

The law prohibits teachers from communicating privately with students on Facebook or through text messages.

The Amy Hestir Student Protection Act is intended to protect students from predatory teachers. But Missouri State Teachers Association spokesperson Todd Fuller says the law is too open to interpretation and bars legitimate educational interaction.

"We’re the throwing the baby out with the bath water here and putting teachers in the position of feeling like they’re guilty before proven innocent on a particular issue with social media, and they’re just trying to use it to reach students," Fuller said.

The MSTA is challenging the law, claiming it infringes on freedom of speech, assembly and religion.

Governor Jay Nixon signed the bill into law in July. It will take effect August 28.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Renovations complete at the "Bubble"

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department just finished $1 million in renovations on Cape Girardeau’s Central Pool. The pool was officially re-opened on Monday.

The renovations of the Cape Central Pool include repainting and resurfacing the pool and the creation of a new fabric cover, or “bubble”, for the off season.

Recreation Division Manager Penny Williams helped coordinate the project. She is excited to see the culmination of the renovations.

"This is just one of the projects. We were planning ten projects in ten years," Williams says. "We have accomplished most of those. This is the last of the major projects that we are going to do with the exception of some park improvements."

Williams says the Parks and Recreation Initiative has helped beautify and create recreation areas, as well as create jobs for local contractors.

Since its approval in 2008, the Parks and Recreation and Storm Water Initiative has funded the Cape Splash Water Park, the Shawnee Park Sports complex and numerous sewer repairs throughout Cape Girardeau.

Hannah Parent, KRCU

Monday, August 22, 2011

Laurie Everett wins historic preservation award

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Local Cape Girardeau business owner Laurie Everett won a Historic Preservation Award from the non-profit organization Main Street Connection. They recognized her store Annie Laurie’s Antiques at their annual conference on August 11.

Everett was recognized for was her support of Cape Girardeau’s downtown area through connecting her business with historic preservation efforts.

Everett feels that businesses in the downtown area should take pride in creating a welcoming environment for local patrons. She describes Annie Laurie’s antiques as a morph between a business and a community destination.

"I just try to make it a fun environment," Everett says. "I try to ignite all the senses when people come in. You know with the music, the sounds,and the colors. I just want people to feel like its more of an experience than just a retail shop."

Main Street Connection hopes to create enthusiasm among businesses owners and local people for the revitalization of downtown districts all across Missouri.

Hannah Parent, KRCU

Southeast biology professor receives NSF grant

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A Southeast Missouri State University biology professor was awarded a National Science Foundation grant totalling nearly 500 thousand dollars.

Dr. Margaret Waterman was given the grant dollars to create a collaborative network of faculty from multiple universities who use problem-based learning methods.

Waterman says problem-based learning is teaching that begins with a story.

"The power of it is it creates a real world context. It’s not just in school. It’s not just memorization," Waterman says. "It’s running on the track and having a conversation. It’s sitting over Chinese food and talking about soy sauce. It’s a wide variety of thing like that."

Waterman compares problem-based learning to exercises that are practiced in medical school.

Waterman is the lead researcher in a group of problem-based learning investigators from Southeast Missouri State University, State University of New York Buffalo, Emory University, Spelman College, University of Wisconsin River Falls, University of Delaware, Three Rivers Community College, EMBRLI Consulting and Michigan State University.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Public meeting to discuss north St. Louis riverfront development

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - The St. Louis Development Corporation is holding a public meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discuss plans to develop the north St. Louis riverfront.

The engineering firm HNTB has been studying the 3,000-acre area for the city, to figure out what’s needed to turn it into a freight transportation hub. The city also wants to attract new businesses and jobs.

HNTB north riverfront project manager Brian Comer says the area has problems with storm water flooding, and lacks supporting businesses like restaurants.

It’s also difficult for trucks to get freight in and out of the port.

"There’s a number of areas right now...where the rail lines cross a number of the major streets, such as Hall Street," Comer said. "Trains actually block the road."

The HNTB study has been funded by a $600,000 grant from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, along with $200,000 in city funds.

Jennifer Allen of Trailnet, a local non-profit that promotes biking and walking, says her organization’s priority is for St. Louisans to be able to access the river.

"We think it’s important that we have people living there, that we have these recreational activities happening there, that it’s really a district, a destination, that can connect people to the river," Allen said. "And at the same time provide the jobs that everyone knows that we so need."

Both Allen and Comer say Tuesday’s meeting is an opportunity for people to ask questions and voice their priorities for the north riverfront area.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Schweich sharply critical of budget withholdings for disasters

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - A new report from the Missouri state auditor says Gov. Jay Nixon did not follow the Missouri Constitution when he withheld $170 million from the current budget to help fund disaster relief.

Auditor Tom Schweich says withholdings can only be made if actual revenues come in below what’s estimated. That wasn’t possible in this case because the fiscal year hadn’t even started.

Schweich also said his office was "startled" by the fact that Nixon’s office could not demonstrate how it reached the 170 million number.

"We would have expected spreadsheets, estimates, projections, comparative scenarios of possible revenue," Schweich says. "We would have expected the typical things any auditor would expect."

Schweich says the governor should have worked with lawmakers instead of taking unilateral action.

"There’s a supplemental budget coming up, there are future fiscal years coming up, those budgets can account for Joplin," Schweich says. "And also there’s a rainy day fund with $500 million in it that’s never one time been tapped for disasters. Now if there was ever a rainy day, it’s what happened in Joplin."

In a statement, Nixon spokesman Scott Holste called the auditor’s letter “wrong,” and said the withholdings are a further example of Nixon’s fiscal responsibility.

Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cape Girardeau-to-Paducah interstate connection is on the horizon

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - An interstate highway between Cape Girardeau and Paducah is one step closer to reality.

Cape Girardeau city officials announced Monday a three point six million dollar grant for a feasibility study from the United States Department of Transportation.

The highway will run from Interstate 55, cross the Mississippi River at the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge at Cape Girardeau, and hook up with Interstate 24 in Illinois, which leads into Paducah.

The study will look at the highway’s impact on the environment and archaeological sites. It also takes into account forest mitigation in the Shawnee National Forest, according to Cape Girardeau City Manager Scott Meyer.

"After that study’s complete, then you’ll have an actual route, you won’t have a design, but you’ll a route that says its going to go here and here’s what it’s going to look like and here’s how many interchanges," Meyer says. "Then they begin to pull off projects and turn those into construction projects."

Travel time between Cape Girardeau and Paducah will be reduced from an hour and a half to 45 minutes.

The highway will be part of the Interstate 66 project that will eventually run from coast to coast.

Walt Wildman is the past director of the I-66 Project. He says the so-called “East-West Trans American Corridor” is being put together piece by piece.

"There are quite a few sections in the east in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky, that are under construction. But they may not have that name on it," Wildman says. "You can go down I-24, you’ll see signs that say ‘Future Site of I-66.’ Out in Kansas, U.S. 400 is a result of this work. It goes into the southwest corner of Kansas and then down in to Colorado that way."

Wildman would not elaborate on the proposed route, but said it would likely go through Ullin.

The Illinois Department of Transportation wrote the grant proposal.

The study will likely take at least two years.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Panama Canal expansion should bring more river traffic to Missouri

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Missouri Department of Transportation officials anticipate the Panama Canal Expansion Project will bring more shipping traffic to Missouri’s waterways.

Freight development administrator Ernie Perry says there won’t be a sudden boost in river traffic, but the larger canal will make river shipping more feasible.

"This is going to make the central United States, the Gulf, the Mississippi River and the Missouri River more attractive as a place to land these shipments versus the West Coast or the East Coast," Perry says. "They can come right up the waterway. It’s the most efficient way to get here. And then get distributed out of Missouri through your Southeast Missouri ports or on up the Mississippi or even the Missouri towards Kansas City."

Perry says MODOT will likely receive private sector support to upgrade port facilities to accommodate container shipments.

Ocean-bound freighters, trains and trucks all transport goods in containers.

That’s not the case on inland waterways, where goods are moved as bulk cargo. And that could be a holdup if more freight is going to load or unload at Missouri’s ports. But Perry believes the problem it can be done.

"You can get started right off the bat with cranes in all yours systems to load containers, unload them," Perry says. "We can get started one step at a time, and that’s what basically would be needed. That, along with the space. And our ports have that. Those types of facilities and that type of equipment in most cases."

The biggest obstacle would be different logistics and scheduling operations for bulk cargo and containers.

The widened Panama Canal is expected to open to traffic in 2014. It will double the waterway’s traffic.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU
Photo: A ship passage through the Panama Canal. Wikipedia Commons.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

NCAA questions new Mizzou basketball coach

COLUMBIA, MO (KBIA) - The University of Missouri’s new basketball coach is being questioned in an NCAA investigation. The questions are related to Frank Haith’s time as head coach at the University of Miami.

Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith has issued a statement, saying he is cooperating with an NCAA investigation. But he also says the statements made about him in a Yahoo Sports investigative report are not an accurate portrayal of his character.

A former University of Miami booster is serving 20 years in prison for his role in a 930 million dollar Ponzi scheme, and he is talking.

In the Yahoo sports story, Nevin Shapiro alleges he gave thousands of dollars to University of Miami athletes in violation of NCAA rules. And he’s naming names, implicating 72 athletes and 10 coaches. One of them is Frank Haith.

Shapiro says he paid Miami basketball recruit DeQuan Jones $10,000 and that Haith was aware of the payment.

Haith says the NCAA told him not to comment on the matter further at this time. The University of Missouri used that same line, and also pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

Haith was the head coach at Miami for 7 years before taking the Missouri job this April.

Ryan Famuliner, KBIA

EPA issues decision on Mo. water quality standards

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - The EPA today issued its decision on Missouri's water quality standards,approving how the state categorized 244 streams, rivers and lakes.

That decision means water bodies newly designated for high contact uses like swimming will need more protection.

Some sewage treatment plants, municipalities and others will need to start treating their wastewater discharges.

EPA water quality manager John DeLashmit says the agency didn't agree with the state's categorization of 23 waterways, including the lower River Des Peres near St. Louis.

"The state proposed protecting it only for boating, canoeing, and wading," DeLashmit said. "And because of the public comments that we've received and reviewed, we are disapproving that decision and asking the state to protect it at a higher level."

Those public comments said people are using the River Des Peres for swimming. The same is true for the Mississippi River near St. Louis.

DeLashmit says the EPA will work with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to set new, more protective standards for both rivers.

Véronique LaCapra, KRCU

Heather Brooks win historic preservation award

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Cape Girardeau Assistant City Manager Heather Brooks won an award for her efforts to revitalize the downtown area.

The non profit group Missouri Main Street Connection presented Brooks with its Outstanding Public Official award at its annual conference on August 11.

Brooks’ efforts to revive the downtown area include her work on the Downtown Strategic Plan and the town’s designation as a DREAM city. She believes a comprehensive effort will go beyond events and will encompass downtown beautification, economic development and traffic generation.

"There’s not just one solution that’s going to fix everything," Brooks says. "There are a lot of things you have to look at when your looking at revitalizing and keeping healthy a downtown area. You can’t just do events."

Brooks feels that a truly vibrant downtown requires a focus on keeping the area clean and looking its best. Another key issue is the need to keep local businesses healthy.

Looking forward, Brooks hopes to develop a Community Improvement District for the downtown.

Hannah Parent, KRCU

State workers to receive raise

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - Missouri state workers will be getting a small bump in pay.

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, known as AFSCME have negotiated a one-time, 2 percent pay increase for the upcoming fiscal year.

Jeff Mazur is a spokesman for the Union. He says even with the raise, Missouri ranks dead last in employee pay.

"Missouri state workers are actually the lowest paid of any state workers of any state in the nation," Mazur says. "In fact just this time last year some data from United States Census Bureau showed that they earn fully 34 percent less than the national average for a state worker."

Mazur says these employees in question work primarily in the Department of Mental Health, State Veterans Commission and Department of Corrections.

Adam Allington, St. Louis Public Radio

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Record enrollment anticipated at Southeast; university signs contract with Candlewood Suites

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Despite admission deferrals Southeast Missouri State University is gearing up for another semester with record enrollment. 

The total will include approximately 1,900 incoming freshmen. Last year the university set a record for incoming freshmen with 1,928.

This year may end up with fewer freshmen due to the university’s decision to defer admissions after July 8.

Nevertheless director of admissions Dr. Debbie Below says the university is still expecting record enrollment.

"Total enrolment at the university should go up about two percent," Below says. "Last year we exceeded 11,100 students as a university for the first time. This year that will probably be around 11,300."

The record enrollment number are pushing on-campus housing to the brink. The university has capacity to house approximately 3,100 students.

Seven students will temporarily call rather unconventional surroundings home.

These seven will live in converted dorm lounges for the next few days. Residence Life Director Dr. Bruce Skinner says he is certain that conditions will improve rather quickly for those students.

"Many schools are uncomfortably full at move-in. "We will have about thirty students that don’t show between a week from Friday and Friday," Skinner says. "So this is really a short term problem. It’s an uncomfortable problem for both students and the university. But it’s not the case where fall break rolls around and there are still people living in lounges and people living with RA’s."

To help alleviate some of the stress the university signed a year-long contract with Candlewood Suites to create housing for some 48 students for the school year.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Photo: Vandiver Hall at Southeast Missouri State University.

First health insurance exchange hearing held in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCUR) - A Missouri Senate committee tasked with drafting recommendations for a state health exchange held the first of at least three statewide hearings in Kansas City on Tuesday.

Exchanges are new organizations under the federal health law, intended to provide a more organized and competitive market for buying health insurance.

But yesterday’s hearing wrestled with the very notion of developing one in Missouri.

The eight-member committee focused the majority of the nearly four and a half hour, packed hearing, on asking the state’s Insurance Director and Attorney General about the legalities of an exchange, what kind of role the federal government would have in one, and how an exchange would actually work.

Senate committee member Jane Cunningham worried that creating an exchange would weaken Missouri’s and other state’s legal challenges to the federal health law, and its requirement that people buy health insurance. But Attorney General Chris Koster said, "I don’t think that however the legislature decides to move will affect the outcome of the case."

Koster also said if an exchange does not require people to buy coverage in it, then it doesn’t appear to violate proposition C – that’s the legislation that prohibits insurance mandates in the state. At least two others hearings are scheduled next month for Columbia and Jefferson City.

Elana Gordon, KCUR

Crowell not running for office after he leaves Senate

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Republican Senator Jason Crowell says he is not going to run for elected office after his current term ends in the Missouri Senate.

Crowell will be forced out of office due to term limits next year. For the time being, he says he will focus on his personal life.

"I’m getting married October 15 and Kasey and I are going to start our life together," Crowell says. "And that life together does not include any kind of elected office. I’ve been very, very honored to serve Southeast Missouri in both the Missouri House and the Missouri Senate. But what I want to do next is to be the best husband that I possibly can be and God willing a father and focus on raising a family."

Crowell has served in the Missouri Senate since first winning election in 2004, representing Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Madison, Mississippi, Perry and Scott Counties.

He was elected to the Missouri House of Representative in 2000 and 2002.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Business development leaders propose $400K loan

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Cape Girardeau’s business development leaders want the city to apply for a $400 thousand action loan under the Community Development Block Grant program.

The loan money would be used to help persuade a manufacturer looking to open a plant in Cape Girardeau.

The city would apply for the loan through the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

Cape Girardeau’s Area Magnet director Mitch Robinson is eager to draw in the business. He is optimistic the city will seal the deal if the loan is approved.

"I think right now where in the front position, they wanna come here we want them to come here," Robinson says. "Now we just gotta work out all the details and get the right place for them and get them pined down and get the deal done as they say."

Robinson said the loan would have to be repaid at a four percent interest rate.

Robinson could not disclose the identity of the manufacturer, but said that 20 jobs would be created.

The loan application was brought up at Monday’s City Council Meeting.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Cape Central weighing options for performing arts center

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Cape Girardeau School District is weighing its options for construction of its performing arts center at the Cape Central High School complex.

The 24,000 square foot facility will hold 1000 seats. A contribution by Richard Kinder will fund the construction of a balcony.

Director of administrative services Neil Glass says the budget for the performing arts center is $6.8 million.

"That’s without the design fees and everything that’s associated it," Glass says. "We’re trying to stick close to that 6.8 million. Our bids did come in over budget. We are evaluating those bids and determining what the best course of action would be, looking at some value alternates and seeing if there are some things that we can adjust or live without."

Glass says he hopes construction will begin in mid-September in order to meet a completion date target by November 2012.

The project is funded by a bond issue passed by voters in 2010.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Senath man admits to killing 3 year old neighbor

SENATH, MO - A Senath man has admitted to killing 3-year old Breeann Rodriguez of Senath, Missouri.

The Associated Press reports 43-year old Shawn Morgan was charged over the weekend with first-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with evidence.

Morgan lived down the street from the Rodriguez family. He told authorities he suffocated the girl after he found her standing of the ladder of his swimming pool. He threw her body in a floodway ditch, according to court documents.

The girl’s body has not yet been found.

Morgan is being held without bond. His arraignment is scheduled for today in Dunklin County Circuit Court in Kennett.

Missouri receives $21M grant to set up insurance exchange

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCUR) - Missouri has received a $21 million federal grant to build an online health insurance exchange, or marketplace.

Travis Ford with the Missouri Department of Insurance says if set up correctly, an exchange would enable Missourians to view multiple insurance plans online at once, to more easily compare policies and prices.

Under the federal health law, states can either develop their own exchanges, or opt out and have the federal government step in and create one instead. Ford says the grant allows Missouri to get a head start on the process.

"If Missouri’s leaders elect to build, create and operate a state-run online market place like this, then we need to be ready," Ford says. "This grant money allows us to do the work and put the IT structure in place necessary for us to be ready."

The federal health law requires the exchanges to be up and running by 2014.

The Missouri house unanimously passed exchange legislation last session, but it never made it to a vote in the Senate.

The Senate’s insurance committee, meanwhile, is preparing to hold hearings across the state this month and next on whether and how to set one up.

Elana Gordon, KCUR

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cape Girardeau patrolwoman wins Missouri DARE Officer of the Year award

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A Cape Girardeau police woman recently won the Missouri DARE officer of the year award.

Patrolwoman A.C. Walker served as the Cape Girardeau DARE officer for two-and-a-half years. Walker used her own experience growing up as the daughter of a drug dealer to demonstrate to school children that they can improve their lives by making the right choices.

Walker says the DARE program helps kids see police officers in a different light.

"Otherwise it’s working on an accident or if there has been an emergency in their home. It’s a scary moment so they can’t bond with that officer during that," Walker says. "With the DARE program, it’s not a scary situation. It’s a much more relaxed setting. It’s at their terms, as to how comfortable they want to get and how involved they want to be."

Even though Walker received the Missouri DARE Officer of the Year Award, she has been transferred to patrol duty. However, she is now president of the Missouri DARE Association.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Japanese print exhibition comes to River Campus museum

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Crisp Museum at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus is featuring a new exhibition today of Japanese wood panel prints. 

The Floating World: Ukiyo-E Prints date from Japan’s Edo period between 1600 and 1868.

Most of the prints were made for posters and advertisements. Following the opening of Japan to the West, these prints because popular among the Impressionists in Europe, according to museum director Peter Nguyen.

"If you examine a print by Van Gogh and you look at a Japanese print from this period, you can see the similarities, or at the influence from the Japanese prints on our Impressionist artists and post-Impressionists artists," Nguyen says.

The exhibition will run through October 23.

Financial assistance for the exhibition is provided by the Missouri Arts Council.
Jacob McCleland, KRCU
Image: Oji, Taki no Kawa (The Waterfall River at Oji)

Suspect in custody in Breeann Rodriguez case

SENATH, MO - The Dunklin County Sheriff and Senath Police now have a suspect in custody in the case of missing 3-year old Breeann Rodriguez.

Breeann was last seen riding her bicycle in front of her house in Senath on Saturday, August 6.

The suspect is from the local area and is not related to the family. He is being held at the Dunklin County Justice Center pending formal charges.

The Dunklin County Major Case Squad, Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the Missouri Department of Conservation are searching for the girl’s body and her bicycle in an undisclosed area in Dunklin County.

Mountain lion spotted in Shannon County

A landowner’s trail camera has confirmed a mountain lion sighting in Shannon County. 

The landowner emailed the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Mountain Lion Response Team on August 6 with a camera image of a mountain lion walking through a clearing. The image was taken on July 29 on private land at the west edge of the county near Mountain View.

Conservation agents confirmed the sighting.

Mountain lions are dispersing from states west of Missouri towards the east. Earlier this year, a mountain lion was killed in Connecticut.

Conservation agents say Missouri’s mountain lion population is small and is not considered large enough to be a breeding population.

Photo: A landowner’s trail camera taken on July 29 has confirmed a mountain lion sighting in Shannon County. Image courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Training wheels found near Senath may belong to missing girl

SENATH, MO - FBI and local law enforcement officers found a set of bicycle training wheels in a field near Senath, Missouri .

The FBI says the wheels could belong to Breeann Rodriguez, a three-year old girl from Senath who went missing on Saturday.

Law enforcement teams continue to comb the area.

Meanwhile, investigators are trying to track down an older white cargo van with no windows. The van was reported to have been near Breeann’s home days before she disappeared.

A joint 45,000 dollar reward is being offered for information that helps investigators find those responsible for her disappearance.

Agriculture production and demand are both down

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The United States Department of Agriculture released its August supply and demand estimates Thursday. The report reinforces what many already knew: It’s been a bad year for Missouri’s farmers.

The USDA’s World Agriculture Supply and Demand Estimates report shows projected corn yields are down by nearly 6 bushels per acre from last month’s estimate.

Soy bean projections are also down.

Michael Aide chairs Southeast Missouri State University’s Agriculture Department. Aide says soy beans are flowering and setting pods at the university's David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center. A good yield is still possible if certain conditions are met.

"What we need is favorable weather from this point out to keep the pods on the plant, to continue the flowering, to continue the grainfill of the pods that we have," Aide says. "We should have a respectable yield. But once again, we are irrigated. If you weren’t irrigated, you may have already had some yield reduction."

Aide says only about 45 percent of the Bootheel’s farmland is irrigated.

While supply is down in the U.S., global economic and political uncertainty are driving down demand.

Aide says this week’s downgrade of the U.S.'s AAA credit rating is adding even more uncertainty.

"I think there’s going to be less yields in the Missouri Bootheel and the prices may not be there that we had last year," Aide says. "Simply because if you watch the commodities lately, everybody is fleeing commodities with the stock market issues and so forth. And so prices are down a little bit in some places."

Production is up in Brazil, Ukraine and the European Union, thus driving down demand even further for U.S. corn.

The USDA estimates rice yields will increase slightly.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Kinder responds to ex-stripper's allegations

Missouri Lieutenant Governor and assumed Republican gubernatorial candidate Peter Kinder responded to allegations on Thursday that he made repeated inappropriate advances on a former stripper and Penthouse pet.

The Riverfront Times reported on Tuesday that Tammy Chapman called Peter Kinder one of her best customers when she worked at a strip club in the mid-1990s. She broke off all contact with Kinder, then a state Senator, when he allegedly became too aggressive with her.

An online photo recently began circulating that shows Kinder and Chapman together at a St. Louis bar that features so-called "pantsless parties."

Kinder issued a statement Thursday, saying "Like most people I am not proud of every place I have been but this woman's bizarre story is not true." Kinder continues, "The Democrats have tried to use these tactics against me in the past and they have failed."

Southeast Missouri State University political science professor Will Miller says Kinder didn’t do anything illegal, but the allegations could short-circuit his campaign.

"He is a single guy, but it still questions the decision-making capability which is just a question you can’t afford when you’re already down in the polls and you’re behind in money," Miller says.

Miller also says that Kinder’s scandal could affect his social conservative base.

Kinder is widely expected to announce is candidacy for governor in September.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Photo: Peter Kinder and Tammy Chapman at Vernin's bar. Courtesy of The Riverfront Times.

Cape Central football stadium nears completion

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - The Cape Central Tigers will have their own football stadium this September.

Construction of the $2.9 million project began this spring.

Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services Neil Glass says the high school needed its own football field for a long time.

"Cape Central has never had a stadium," Glass says. "This is our centennial year, our 100th graduating class. Everything seems to be hitting at the same time. We’re very excited. A hundred years without having our own football field, and now we’ve got one. It is a state-of-the-art field. It is something the community can be proud of."

Cape Central previously played home games at Southeast Missouri State University’s Houck Stadium.

The new stadium will have 5,000 seats, VIP seating and a state-of-the-art sound system.

Glass says the the school district chose to install artificial turf because it requires less maintenance and is more versatile.

"With artificial turf, we can play our soccer games on it, we can play our football games on it - our freshman, JV and varsity. And have our band competitions if we so choose. Our physical education classes. It’s just that numerous events can be held on turf," Glass says.

The Cape Tigers will play their first home football game in the new stadium on September 2.

The football stadium is funded by a $40 million bond issue approved by voters in 2010. Other projects include the new Franklin Elementary School, a Performing Art Center and a new library at the Cape Central Junior High, among others.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Franklin School construction proceeding as planned

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Construction of the new Franklin Elementary School in Cape Girardeau is proceeding as planned. 

The $10 million facility is under construction next to the old Franklin School, which was built in 1927.

Franklin School principal Rhonda Dunham says the new school will solve many of the current facility’s space issues.

“With the gymnasium it will be around 50 thousand square feet. So we will have big-sized classrooms. We’ll even have three extra classrooms just in case they decide to put fifth grade back into the mix,” Dunham says.

The new building will house several additions, including an art room, a computer room, a parent-teacher conference room and a state-of-the-art library.

The new building is scheduled to be ready by the beginning of the 2012 school year. Dunham says the construction is projected to finish within its budget.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Investigators find evidence in missing girl search

Investigators in Dunklin County are hopeful that new evidence will help them find 3-year-old Breeann Rodriguez.

The girl was last seen Saturday riding a bike with training wheels in front of her home in Senath.

The Daily Dunklin Democrat reports that authorities aren't disclosing the new evidence.

Law enforcement is now searching south of Senath.

Police are also seeking a white van that had been spotted in the area. The van is an older model with no windows and a ladder on the back.

A joint $45,000 reward is being offered in the case.

Associated Press, Dunklin County Democrat

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dino's Pizza damaged by fire, but building is not a total loss

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - A fire erupted early Wednesday morning at Dino’s Pizza in Cape Girardeau.

Firefighters responded to a call at 2:17 a.m. and arrived at the scene to find smoke throughout the building. Firefighters located a fire in the basement and were able to put out the blaze by 3:00 a.m.

Fire Department Battalion Chief Mark Starnes says nobody was injured, but smoke damage was extensive.

“Through the whole building we’re estimating about 250 thousand dollars worth of damage,” Starnes says. “The building is not a total loss, though. If the owner deems necessary he can go ahead and clean it up and re-open it, but there will be several issues that he’ll have to take care of through inspections.”

Starnes says the fire extended beyond the basement to the first floor, where the restaurant and an apartment is located. The fire never reached a second floor apartment.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. The Cape Girardeau Fire Department and the Fire Marshall are investigating.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo kicks off tonight

SIKESTON, MO (KRCU) - The Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo kicks off Wednesday night with a full night of rodeo action and entertainment by country music performers Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson with Cowboy Troy.

The Rodeo is now in its 59th year and is organized as a volunteer effort by the Jaycees. All proceeds are donated to community organizations.

Cal Crader is the Jaycees Rodeo Chairman. He says the cooler temperatures and pleasant weather conditions will help attract visitors to Sikeston.

"Within 120 miles of us this summer there’s not a whole lot going on other than our event," Crader says. "We’ve got the best names in country names. And by being a member of the Wrangler Rodeo Tour, we continue to draw the best cowboys in the world."

The rodeo is the largest annual even in Sikeston.

Sikeston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Missy Marshall says the rodeo provides a valuable economic boost to the region, even if it turns life a little upside down.

"The horse trailers started pulling in over the weekend. The livestock is coming in, the equipment is coming in, the cowboys are coming in, the tourists are coming in," Marshall says. "And that is a great thing to have happen every August. And it’s something that the community can count on and benefit from. We’re very happy and proud of our Jaycees for doing it."

The Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo will begins Wednesday night and run through this Saturday. There will be live entertainment each evening.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Nitrate pollution in Mississippi River Basin remains at 1980s levels, despite reduction efforts

ST. LOUIS, MO (ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO) - A new study shows that despite decades of effort to reduce nitrate pollution in the Mississippi River Basin, concentrations remain as high today as they were in the 1980s.

The U.S. Geological Survey conducted the study, which looked at nitrate levels at eight sites on the Mississippi, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio rivers.

USGS hydrologist and study lead Lori Sprague said the next step will be to figure out where the pollution is coming from.

"The largest sources of nitrates are fertilizer, livestock, wastewater treatment plants, and industrial emissions," Sprague said. "We can't say for sure which of those are causing the trends that we're seeing and in fact it's probably some combination of all of them."

Nitrates flowing from the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico contribute to the formation of areas known as dead zones, where there is too little oxygen in the water to support marine life.

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

Image: A map showing each of the sites involved in the U.S. Geological Survey's study on nitrate pollution in the Mississippi River Basin.
(Courtesy U.S. Geological Survey)

Fire damages Dino's Pizza in Cape Girardeau

A fire broke out at Dino’s Pizza in Cape Girardeau early Wednesday morning.

KFVS12 reports that the fire was called in to 911 after 2 a.m. this morning.

The fire was under control by 3 a.m.

Firefighters say the fire started in the basement. The cause is still undetermined.

Missouri again cuts premiums for pre-existing condition program

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCUR) - A state health insurance option for people with pre-existing health conditions has once again gotten cheaper. In what state insurance officials are calling a significant reduction, Missouri's high risk insurance pool is cutting premiums by nearly 25 percent.

The federally funded program is designed for people with chronic diseases who've either been flat-out denied health coverage or charged an extremely high rate.

So far, about 550 people have enrolled in the program, but it has the capacity to ensure up to 2500.

Travis Ford, with the Missouri Department of Insurance, says cost may be a factor in whether people sign up.

"This is not free insurance, it's not cheap insurance, it's for people who can pay a full premium," says Ford. "But at least it's the right to buy insurance."

Ford says the program's premiums, or what people pay for a policy on a monthly basis, are based on a combination of federal rules and private health insurance trends in the state. He says determining these premium rates and ensuring they're as affordable as possible is an ongoing and challenging process.

"That means continual number crunching and analysis," says Ford. "And that's difficult in Missouri because health insurance rates are not regulated. And so health insurance companies are not required to file rates with the state."

Ford says in an effort to make coverage more accessible, the high risk program recently got federal approval to cut premiums by 23 percent. That's on top of a 25 percent rate reduction in February.

Ford says the latest cut could save a person an estimated $500 to $2000 a year, depending on one's age and deductible.

To be eligible for the program, a person must be without insurance for at least six months and have a pre-existing health condition.

The program was created under the federal health law last year, and is slated to phase out once insurance companies can no longer deny people coverage in 2014.

Elana Gordon, KCUR

Photo: Carolen Collins looks over the application to Missouri's new high risk insurance pool. Denied coverage in the private market, she recently enrolled in the program.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cape Girardeau looks at rental unit inspections

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Like many college students, Casey lives in a house that was converted into multiple apartments. It’s an old building with an old air-conditioning unit. Her bed is only a few feet away from a flimsy door that leads into somebody else’s apartment. It’s the only thing separating her from her neighbors. 

And that’s not the only thing wrong with her apartment.

“When I was first moving into my apartment, there were a ton of different damages that was done,” Casey said. “There was a window that was broken, doors that didn’t fit on the hinges. Broken doors that they refused to fix or said they didn’t need to be fixed. And there was like mold on tile and things like that. They said there wasn’t a problem.”

Casey, which is not her real name, had her concerns put into her contract.

She figured that the written agreement would be enough but “it took a month for the window to be fixed, they still haven’t fixed the door,” she said.

And Casey isn’t the only one dealing with headaches caused by unresponsive landlords.

Fourth-seven percent of Cape Girardeau’s residents rent, according to the city government. Many are calling for something to be done about unsafe and often unsightly rental units.

A citizen’s initiative in 2007 asked the city to develop a rental inspection system.

While tenants like Casey like the idea of rental inspections, landlords are digging in to stop the ordinance.

At a public forum with landlords and rental managers in late June, many made their frustrations known. Some say the city needs to enforce the laws already on the books.

Laura Ritter says the ordinance is nothing more than a cleverly veiled tax.

“I’m not in favor of it because I feel like we already have the ordinances on the books now, we already have an inspector so we already have everything in place,” Ritter said. “I think this really is a revenue-created issue, somewhat like even a tax to us landlords. We’ve already got everything in place to deal with all the problems to we have here in Cape.”

David E. Soto owns and operates Soto Property Management, which operates mid- to upper-level rental properties.

Showing me around a fairly new property off Lynnwood Hills Drive, Soto said he feels no compassion for landlords with dilapidated units. But he is afraid that the city’s actions are too broad-stroked.

“If there are problem properties, I personally would like to see them get taken care of. It affects my business when I have properties in that neighborhood. It’s going to affect the rental rate on that. So it does affect me. But again just to put the broad brush of accusing everybody of having to inspect … it just seems like it is too much,” Soto said.

Soto adds that the ordinance’s fees would simply be passed on to tenants in the form of higher rent.

City Manager Scott Meyer says the city does not know the inspections’ cost and he is still weighing two different licensing fees. One would be a flat fee and the other would be based on gross revenue.

“We haven’t landed on anything,” Meyer said. “But I do think that the landlord association has met. That’s one of the things they have focused on. And we certainly are considering it.”

Nevertheless, in Casey’s apartment little has changed. The halls of her apartment are not filled with debate. Rather, they are filled with worries about work, school and mold.

“I do my best to kill it off. But they’re not paying for that. And I can’t take it off of my rent check without them saying that I still owe them money, and then tacking on charges because I did not pay the full amount of rent,” she says.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Search continues for missing Senath girl

The search continues for a 3-year-old Southeast Missouri girl that has been missing since Saturday. 

The FBI has joined investigators from the Missouri State Highway Patrol and several county sheriffs in the search for Breeann Rodriguez of Senath, according to the Daily Dunklin Democrat.

The girl was last seen wearing a pink shirt and pink pants, riding a pink bicycle with training wheels. Authorities say Breeann and her bicycle disappeared from in front of her home about noon Saturday.

The FBI is offering a reward of 25 thousand dollars for information that helps find Breeann. The Senath’s Marshall Office is also offering a 20 thousand dollar reward.

Anyone with information should call the FBI at 314-791-1205.

Photo: Breeann Rodriguez

S & P downgrade could bring higher interest rate to SE Missouri

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Missouri State University economist Bruce Domazlicky thinks Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. debt may lead to higher interest rate in order to attract investors.

Domazlicky says this could reverberate to the southeast Missouri economy.

"Anybody who wants to borrow money for buying houses or cars or businesses or agriculture, it’s going to cost them more," Domazlicky said. "That would probably be the main effect locally. The question is when that might occur or how much it is going to occur. We just don’t know right now. But that is a possibility."

Domazlicky adds college students will also feel the affect of the downgrade by increased interest rates on student loans.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

McCaskill on product "dumping" and industrial technology

JACKSON, MO (KRCU) - Senator Claire McCaskill says the U.S. needs improved enforcement of trade agreements. Otherwise, small and mid-sized Missouri manufacturers are unable to compete.

McCaskill alleges Chinese manufacturers illegally route products through Taiwan, relabel them ... and then sell these cheap products in the U-S market.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should monitor this illegal activity. But McCaskill says their attention shifted elsewhere.

“They’ve been busy with illegal immigrant and haven’t spent enough time looking at the dumping that’s going on. So we’ve got to really focus on that. You know, sometimes it’s not about passing new laws, it’s about enforcing the laws that are on the books,” McCaskill said.

Senator McCaskill visited three manufacturing sites in Southeast Missouri on Monday, including a stop at Proctor & Gamble in Jackson.

She says it is doubtful that Congress will take up new legislation specifically designed to create new jobs.

It is more likely, she says, to tackle patent reform, trade agreements and regulations.

Standing in front of the Proctor & Gamble plant near Jackson, McCaskill added that American workers have been cursed by advances in industrial technology.

“This facility is a good example. Their productivity is way up, but they haven’t had a big increase in the number of employees because the technology has allowed them to be so much more productive. And that’s one of the reasons this has been a jobless recovery,” McCaskill said.

McCaskill also visited Saberliner in Perryville and Alan Wire Company in Sikeston.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

"Frito Bandido" bashes windows, steals snacks

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Recent thefts in Cape Girardeau are supporting Frito Lays’ potato chips slogan, "Betcha can’t eat just one."

Three trucks were burglarized at the company’s local facility last week.

The robberies happened on two separate occasions. Police say vending machine-sized bags of Lay’s Potato chips were the only stolen items.

Windows were smashed in all three trucks.

While there are no suspects for either break-in, Cape Girardeau Police Department spokesperson Darrin Hickey feels the same person or persons may be involved.

"We don’t know anything for sure, but I think that defiantly is a possibility with the similar set of circumstances. That the entry was gained in the same way, and that the only items missing on both instances are just the chips," Hickey said.

Hickey says he can’t fully understand the motive behind either of the break-ins.

"You got to think a window is probably worth a couple of hundred bucks. And chips are worth a few dollars," Hickey said. "So they are doing more damage to the vehicle then they are in what they are actually getting from the vehicle."

Tim Filla, KRCU

Monday, August 8, 2011

Southeast Missouri State partners with ACCION Texas

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Southeast Missouri State University is now partnering with the micro-lending giant ACCION Texas.

The partnership creates a new division of ACCION, named ACCION Delta.

ACCION is based in San Antonio and is the nation’s largest micro-lending organization. To date it has lent over $112 million through nearly twelve thousand loans.

ACCION president and CEO Janie Barrera says the organization helps struggling businesses and entrepreneurs get needed capital by giving out loans that range from $500 to $100,000.

"There’s a lot of small businesses, that don't have access right now because they haven't kept good financials. Or maybe it because there new in their business, and banks are regulated and they can’t help everyone," Barrera said. "So ACCION as a not-for-profit organization can bring capital then to small business community here in the delta."

The organization says it was drawn to the partnership by the university’s Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Since 2006, the program’s graduates have started nearly 250 businesses with over 90 percent of those businesses still operating.

Program director James Stapleton says the partnership will make a big difference in the region’s economy.

"We hope that the partnership will allow more individuals who are starting or who have an existing business and need some capital to grow have access to it," Stapleton said.

The partnership was announced Friday at the Show-Me Center.

Tim Filla, KRCU

Lower temperatures, rain expected this week

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KRCU) - Temperatures should retreat from the upper nineties this week, and humidity levels should fall to seasonal norms. Most days will see high temperatures in the upper 80s or low 90s.

David Humphrey is lead meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah. He says there is a chance for some rain all week.

“You’re going to have your normal summertime shower and thunderstorm chance. Often times it’s going to be afternoon and evening. Probably heavy rain is going to be your more typical storm, but we can’t rule out an isolated severe storm that would include damaging winds or large hail,” Humphrey said.

Lower heat and humidity are effected by increased upper air flow and a decrease in pressure. Humphrey would not rule out another round of extreme heat before the end of summer.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU

Child care facilities must place infants on backs for naps

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCUR) - Licensed child care facilities in Missouri must now place infants on their backs during nap time. The new law, effective this month, aims to reduce the number of infant deaths in the state.

The change has been a long-time coming.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended fifteen years ago, that babies sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Since then, the rate of SIDS has gone down by more than 50 percent nationwide.

Cheryl Herzog Arneill, with the Missouri organization SIDS resources, says that's because placing infants on their backs ensures they have an open airway.

"When a baby is not positioned on their backs for sleep, they have less ability to lift their head and get out of threatening positions," Arneill said. "If any type of loose bedding or soft fluffy material – even a bumper pad in the crip – would get too close to infant airway, the buildup of carbon dioxide or exhaled air could actually trigger a sids episode."

Under Missouri’s new law, the state’s more than 3,000 licensed child-cares must place infants less than 12 months old on their backs to sleep. Arneill says that’s significant because SIDS deaths are disproportionately high in child-care settings.

She says Missouri's new law is critical, even though it doesn't apply to the state's thousands of legal but unlicensed child cares.

"We're hopeful, though, that this news will really spread within the child-care community and most people will know and understand the importance of back-to-sleep," Arneill said.

Between 2006 and 2009, there were 187 SIDS deaths in the state. Nationwide, the number of SIDS deaths dropped by more than fifty percent, after the U.S. launched a Back to Sleep Campaign in the early nineties.

Elana Gordon, KCUR

Friday, August 5, 2011

Missouri Facebook law draws attention of ACLU

A new Missouri law prohibits teachers from ‘friending’ students on Facebook … and the law caught the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU of Eastern Missouri is considering litigation to challenge the law, citing free speech infringement.

Legal director Tony Rothert says the law is too vague and that legal action is possible.

"I think reviewing the law and hearing from legislators on what they were intending to do versus what the law actually says, it appears that the law is crafted by people who just don’t understand how Facebook specifically and the Internet more generally work," Rothert said. "They’re spooked by technology and are trying to put restrictions on something that they don’t understand."

Rothert says it is odd that the law is designed to protect children from predator teachers yet bans them from interacting with teachers in a setting that has an evidence trail.

Jacob McCleland, KRCU