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'Tis the season for holiday shopping

Thanksgiving and Black Friday, often considered the unofficial kick-off of the holiday season, are still weeks away, but many stores are already unpacking red-and-green decorations.

Gordmans has been preparing for the holidays since back-to-school season ended, according to store manager Hoa Nguyen. Customers are embracing the Christmas displays located near the Halloween decorations and even asking when holiday music will start playing.

“On Monday, a guest bought six cups in the (holiday) food section telling me this is the time to buy because we have a full selection,” Nguyen said.

According to the National Retail Federation, 39 percent of consumers start their holiday shopping before November. Gordmans shopper Julie Hurd begins preparations for her favorite season in June by picking out the perfect presents for her daughters and grandchildren.

“I like to get it done early, because that way I can enjoy my family and cooking and baking and all of the stress is done,” Hurd said. “So I really get to be with my family.”

Hurd’s shopping will include some Frozen 2 merchandise. Nguyen predicts the Disney release, along with the entertainment company’s other winter debut Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, will produce popular toys and merchandise.

“Star Wars is huge because there’s a release,” Nguyen said. “We have tons of Star Wars but we’re always ahead, from Frozen to Toy Story, which just came out a while back.”

As in previous years, online shopping will be popular among consumers. The NRF estimates 56 percent of shoppers will buy online and 53 percent in department stores. However, 48 percent of consumers plan on combining the two by buying online and picking up in stores.

Gordmans recently installed an Amazon Hub Counter that lets shoppers buy online and pick up at the store. According to Nguyen, customers will often pick up a package and then continue shopping.

“A guest said her husband hates her doing this but she enjoys it because she gets to shop for her grandkids,” Nguyen said with a laugh. “It’s also safe, because packages might get stolen at a house and when they get shipped here, they’re protected.”

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Living in history

Fairleigh Place celebrates its 100-year history in St. Joseph this year.

The neighborhood near Noyes Boulevard and Frederick Avenue holds the distinction as being one of the first planned neighborhoods in the city.

When esteemed local businessman W.G. Fairleigh died in 1912, his heirs decided to divide up the 28 acres into what is known as Fairleigh Place today.

The grounds were platted in 1915, the same time the Tootle family developed Westminster Place across Frederick Avenue. Fairleigh Place and Westminster Place became the first two planned neighborhoods in the city.

The homes in Fairleigh Place were sold to young people who couldn’t afford mansions. Ashland Court today has most of the older houses.

The first homeowner in Fairleigh Place was Edward Delevan, a local builder and contractor who lived at 1015 Ashland Court. Today, 1015 Ashland Court is the home of Sue Wagner, a retired educator and Fairleigh Place historian.

Wagner pointed out the nice front porch on the house and the 30 windows.

“Some people told me when I first moved in, they said it’s like an air-conditioned house because of all the windows. Wagner said she gets a pretty good breeze through the house when she opens up all the windows. She said it was designed that way.

“It’s amazing the way that they used to look at things and they were very innovative,” Wagner said.

Wagner and a few of her neighbors have planned an anniversary celebration for the neighborhood.

Wagner got paperwork from City Hall on the area and also the building permits for the houses in the area. Drive through Fairleigh Place today and you’ll see small black-and-white yard signs giving the age of the houses in which they stand. A neighborhood celebration was held last month with current and former residents attending.

“I’ve also been going through the city directories. And I know almost everybody who has been in any of these houses. There are 78 houses that I’ve been researching. And by the time I get through this, we will have probably most of the 28 acres that were owned at one time,” Wagner said.

Wagner said the streets in Fairleigh Place and Westminster Place are different from other city streets, too.

“If you look at the town, primarily they are straight streets. They go east-west or north-south. And you have a different situation in both of these — Westminster Place has a fountain. So the street has to go around that fountain. Then the Fairleigh kids decided that they were going to do kind of like rounded streets, so we have Ashland Court that looks like a horseshoe,” Wagner said.

As she walked through the neighborhood, Wagner also pointed out little narrow sidewalks next to some some of the houses. Those sidewalks were for maids’ entrances, she said, as they weren’t allowed to use the front door in those days.

The street names in Fairleigh Place are important, too, Wagner added. The street names are the names of relatives and other notable people. Talbot was named for Fairleigh’s brother and Sublette was for Fairleigh’s mother-in-law.

Wagner pointed out how many of the houses were done in a Tudor style or a mix of architectural designs.

“That adds to the uniqueness of the place too,” she said

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Council rejects sewer credit

A local trailer park owner seeking credit for sewer charges after water leaks on his property is still hoping to have some costs waived after being rejected twice by the St. Joseph City Council.

A bill of around $15,000 was sent to Countryside Mobile Home Estates off of Pear Street after high water usage was translated into high sewer usage. Owner Russel Hanson said the bill was miscalculated due to water leaks on the property, and is seeking a waiver of around $7,800 of those charges.

At their Oct. 7 meeting, the City Council rejected waiving the fees and Hanson was not able to be in attendance at the meeting. The item was brought back before the council on Oct. 21 as an emergency ordinance, meaning it would not need a first reading, but would require a supermajority of at least six votes.

It failed with five “ayes” and four “nays.” Councilmembers Brenda Blessing, Madison Davis, Russell Moore and Brian Myers voted against the item.

Hanson was in attendance and approached the council before the vote with his attorney to give them his side of the story.

“A lot of the elements in the meeting were about my merit or whether I deserve, or we deserve, a credit,” Hanson said. “We humored that and talked about it but, at the end of the day, really what it’s about is: Did the water go down the sewer?”

City staff recommended denial of the credit due to the difficulty in calculating the average bill. Hanson said his number may not be 100 percent correct, but it is very close.

“The factors we have say (the water) did not go down the sewer,” Hanson said. “So, that’s what we’re going to stand on and at the end of the day that’s going to be our case.”

At one point, Moore made a motion to cut the amount of the waiver in half to just under $3,900. That motion failed.

Mayor Bill McMurray, who voted to approve the waiving of the fees, said another concern the council had was caused by Hanson turning water service back on twice when it had been shut off due to failure to pay the high bill.

“The water, apparently, was shut off a couple of times and he turned it back on a couple of times and I think it’s that action that some of the councilmembers were concerned about,” McMurray said.

At the meeting, Hanson told the council that he only turned the water back on because he had a number of residents living in the park who needed the water and he felt that his back was against the wall.

McMurray said he ultimately decided to vote for the credit due to the positive effect Hanson has had on the community by improving local trailer parks.

“I don’t approve of him turning the water back on after it’s been shut off, but given his business and what he’s done to clean up a park and everything, I thought ‘well all right, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here,’” McMurray said.

He said the city has credited Hanson around $13,000 in the past for other leaks and he would like to see the issues solved so that it doesn’t become a habit to let leaks happen and then collect from the city.

Hanson said he has spent thousand of dollars upgrading plumbing in the park and replacing old above-ground pipes that were there when he bought the property with modern plumbing and meters to see how much water each unit uses.

Hanson is now seeking a roughly $9,000 credit, according to the city, for leaks at another park near Lake Contrary.

He said only six people live in that park but he received a $15,000 bill. City staff has drafted an agreement that will involve Hanson getting all of the plumbing at that park repaired and up to date before those credits will be given.

The City Council will have to vote on that agreement and Hanson is hoping to get the Pear Street location back on an agenda as a regular, nonemergency ordinance.

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There are alternatives to opioids for treating chronic pain

With new lawsuits and court rulings against pharmacy giants regarding opioid overdoses, what are some alternatives for the progressively restricted medicine for people who deal with chronic pain?

Dr. Robert Corder is a doctor at the St. Kolbe Puckett Healing Center in Downtown St. Joseph. He works with several dozen patients a week trying to fend off their addiction. He said there are almost an infinite amount of reasons why people get hooked in the first place.

“There are almost as many reasons as there are people,” Corder said. “There are some people that got addicted from being treated with opioids for too long or with too much medicine. As physicians, we were given a false sense of security where they thought some opioids weren’t as addictive and they were.”

Medical marijuana has been gaining a lot of traction around the country and in Missouri, as this past summer people could start officially applying for medical cards. And it is becoming a serious candidate for people to use as a replacement to cope with their pain.

“Yes, I think it will help some people. It will be abused as well. Some people will get a card to go to a marijuana shop and use it without the need to. But the upside is that it does not have the potential to kill people like opioids do,” Corder said.

There were other treatment routes that Corder thinks should have been recommended decades ago.

“There are a lot of other medications and methods that are used,” Corder said. “Acupuncture and chiropractic methods come to mind. We should have been doing this all along, trying other methods, other than taking the simple way out to just give them an opioid.”

For addicts who have chronic pain and had to take opioids to deal with it, there can be a real struggle to get away from habits.

Suboxone is a mediation that can work as an alternative for people who need help with pain.

“There is a drug called suboxone that works very good in opioid addiction,” Corder said. “It works very well. People don’t feel hungover or have a lot of side effects.”

The good news for our area is that there has been a 90 percent decrease in deaths related to opioid overdose so far this year, according to the medical examiner. Corder said that, unfortunately, methamphetamines have been higher this year, with nine deaths from overdoses.