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Study shows St. Joe overwhelmingly prefers SUVs

These days on St. Joseph streets, it’s the sport-utility vehicle, not the staid and almost defunct passenger car, that has the right of way in terms of automotive preference.

A new study by iSeeCars.com has found that the top five most-driven cars in St. Joseph annually are all SUVs. The rankings, average miles per year and percent driven above the average vehicle are as follows, in descending order, according to the study:

Chevrolet Suburban, 15,896 miles, 22.9 percent above average

GMC Yukon XL, 15,544 miles, 20.2 percent above average

Chevrolet Tahoe, 14,135 miles, 9.2 percent above average

Toyota Highlander, 13,682 miles, 5.7 percent above average

Ford Explorer, 13,523 miles, 4.5 percent above average.

The Boston-area website bills itself as a car search engine that helps shoppers find the best deals through various insights and resources such as big data analytics. The study analyzed more than 2.3 million car sales of 10-year-old cars to identify the top 13 vehicles with the highest annual mileage.

The analysis found that full-size SUVs are dominant, accounting for nine of the 10 vehicles represented. The only passenger car to make to make the top 10 list was the Toyota Prius. The vast majority of the most-driven passenger cars are midsize sedans.

A check by News-Press NOW of local dealerships that sell the list’s top five vehicles shows the SUV trend is strong in the St. Joseph area.

Trevin Reed, general manager of Reed Chevrolet, sees no surprise in the trends toward more consumer interest in the larger vehicles. He called both the Suburban and Tahoe good vehicles for road trips. Families especially find them useful for outings such as vacations, terming improvements in fuel economy, technology and safety as other key factors in the decision.

“The vehicles kind of enable that,” said Reed of the vacations. “We’re seeing a big shift (away from cars).”

Jon Wineberger, who is a sales and leasing professional for Albright Buick GMC Cadillac, said the Yukon has also proven itself as an effective family hauler.

“It’s obviously ... the kids are involved in after-school sports,” Wineberger said.

He echoed the sentiments of other dealers in recognizing that most automakers are moving away from sedans in favor of SUVs and pickup trucks.

“Everybody’s tending to go to SUVs,” he added. “It’s the ease of getting in and out of the vehicle.”

According to Wineberger, General Motors is striving to keep ownership costs down with such features as LED lights.

Billy Weaver, a salesman for Rolling Hills Auto Plaza, said the Highlander has been a longtime popular model in the Toyota lineup, and like the other dealers he cited the valuable asset of room for passengers and item storage as needed.

“It’s a good fit for families,” he said. “Very adaptable ... They’ve been popular since I’ve been here, and that’s been about 13 years ago. ... It’s a staple in the fleet. There’s been times when we couldn’t get enough of them.”

Tony Richey, sales consultant with Anderson Ford, said the Explorer has been building upon a reputation that goes back for a quarter century. He said the Explorer was a forerunner by showcasing the rear-wheel drive that could be switched to a four-wheel drive, a feature which has returned.

“A lot of SUVs don’t have that right now,” he said. “It made a name for itself in the mid-90s. And so we see in the Midwest that it’s trending towards more fuel economy.”

Last year, Ford announced its intention to discontinue all but two cars in its lineup. The Fusion sedan will be the last piece of the phase-out of Ford cars encompassing the next several model years.

“It was something they’ve been working on,” Richey said of Ford’s course change. The custom orders showed it. It’s a no-brainer. We’re switching over to the SUV segment.”

All the dealerships reported the SUVs’ safety ratings, strong demand and ease of financing at the end of the model year as additional keys to the trend. And the Highland and Explorer both feature hybrid models as well for a further enhancement of fuel economy.


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County to proceed with further wind energy research

Buchanan County leaders have opted to continued proceeding with inquiries that could lead to the eventual location of a wind turbine farm.

That decision follows a nearly 1 1/2-session last week with representatives of Black & Veatch, an engineering firm which the county is using as an independent consultant to assist with the research.

A draft presentation of a wind energy ordinance was reviewed section-by-section last Wednesday night by Black & Veatch and county officials at the courthouse. The Buchanan County Planning and Zoning Commission said the proposal will soon be placed online for residents to read. Information on public hearings is expected to be released later, and will be held subsequent to the county’s review — a process which could be completed within three months.

Yet Black & Veatch has already indicated with its statements that it recognizes the county will want to ensure residents have input into the document.

“We want to encourage development without impacting existing resources,” said Doug Timpe, a project manager with the firm.

One planning and zoning member asserted the need for feedback.

“I would think as early as possible you would want to include (the) public,” said Steve Reardon.

Currently, the eastern portions of the county are being scrutinized for the potential location of a wind farm, with Florida-based NextEra expressing interest in its construction. However, the western part of the county is not being completely ruled out, officials added, even with the proximity to the Missouri River and its range of federally protected wildlife. Yet the consultants stressed that that could be problematic, given the need for a thorough examination of impacts to wildlife and cultural resources, along with wetlands permitting near the river.

“You’re going to have to make decisions with the developer on those issues,” said Timpe. “You’re going to have a lot of information to review.”

Planning and zoning members asked incisive questions on the projected ordinance’s finer points. Once fully deliberated, a vote will be taken and the ordinance will be recommended to the Buchanan County Commission for ultimate approval.

Timpe advised the county to hold a “pre-approval” meeting with developers before proceeding with the project.

“That kind of starts the communication process,” he added.

Zoning panelists told Black & Veatch they would like to see wind flow maps placed within the ordinance, to help determine where the strongest patterns exist in the county.

“It’s not a problem to include that,” said Timpe, who noted that an evaluation of impacted property values would also be written into the paperwork.

The board is also interested in guidance on negotiating land rights with property owners for situating the wind turbines, and what types of compensation would be available for obtaining permission. Noise the turbines create while in operation is another matter.

“One thing you can ask for is a noise modeling study,” Timpe said, also explaining that miles of access roads to be built for turbines would become a vital issue.

Reardon said he is troubled by reports that wind turbines interfere with television signals, and wondered about the reimbursement users could be entitled to under such circumstances.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” he said of the interference.

Black & Veatch will continue to fine tune the ordinance based on the board’s questions, and submit a revised proposal, perhaps as early as its Sept. 11 meeting.

After the meeting, Buchanan County Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer told News-Press NOW the process will also include seeking wise counsel from other Northwest Missouri counties that have had prior experience working with wind energy firms via their own projects.

“Really at this point, we’re trying to put together a thoughtful ordinance,” he said.


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Gas prices could soon fall below $2 a gallon
Winter blend and trade war to keep prices low

Gas prices in Missouri and Kansas are expected to continue their slide as refineries switch to a seasonal type of gasoline that typically brings down the price of fuel.

Next month, most gas stations will swap out the current batch of petro with a winter blend of gasoline.

“Winter gasoline tends to be a little cheaper,” said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “It doesn’t have to meet the stringent summer gasoline requirements.”

Additionally, DeHaan told News-Press NOW that oil refineries typically utilize more butane in the winter blend, which cuts down on the cost.

Since gas prices tend to be cheaper in the fall and winter, experts like DeHaan believe the price for a gallon of gasoline will likely be lower this winter than it is right now.

“I think there will be a good opportunity for—if not a handful of stations—hundreds of stations in Missouri at some point to drop below $2 a gallon,” he said. “Whether or not that happens, I think, will be contingent on the current status of the U.S.-China trade tensions.”

Despite the ongoing trade war’s adverse effect on farmers and speculative markets, DeHaan said striking a trade deal with China may end up having its own consequences at the pump.

“If there is a trade deal, I wouldn’t expect sub $2 dollar prices,” he said. “But if there is no trade deal, or escalations between the two between now and winter then we probably will see more stations under $2 (a gallon) in Missouri.”

Both Kansas and Missouri have some of the cheapest gas prices in the U.S., with the average statewide price at $2.34/gallon in Kansas and $2.37 in Missouri, according to data from GasBuddy analyzed Sunday.

The price of a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline in St. Joseph ranged from $2.18 to $2.29 Sunday according to GasBuddy.com.

In Kansas City, the price ranged from $2.08 to $2.35 a gallon, but most stations we serving up gas higher than Northwest Missouri.

The highest prices in Missouri can usually be found around St. Louis, which typically has slightly higher prices because of an EPA mandate. The average price for a gallon of fuel in the Gateway to the West was $2.53 Sunday.


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Alano Club helps reduce crime, DWIs

The Alano Club sits as one of the most majestic mansions in the Museum Hill area. Many who drive by the building at 401 S. 11th St. and see people standing out front think the building only houses Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

But the Alano Club — an independent, private, not-for-profit public health organization — hosts not only 12-step meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous groups, but Gamblers Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups as well.

The Alano Club is not a club, said Gary Clark, president of the Alano board of directors. Rather, he term “club” is a metaphor for a healing community.

“The Alano Club is a public health organization that minimizes crime, minimizes DWIs, minimizes domestic violence,” Clark said.”We’re as successful as measured by people going back to work, people staying out of jail, families staying together and people being more successful in their lives.”

The Alano Club of St. Joseph is the oldest Alano Club west of the Mississippi River. It was incorporated in 1948 and opened in 1949 as Alano Mercy Hospital, a detox facility with facilities for 20 guests.

“They did detox. That’s all they did until 1956 when the American Medical Association declared alcoholism a disease, then those folks who could go to the emergency room got to the hospital instead of the Alano Club,” Clark said.

That’s when the club shifted its mission and began having meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous.

Clar said the club rents rooms to each of those groups. The club hosts 40 “step” meetings a week.

There are an estimated 2,000 individual visits each month.

“These are anonymous programs so there are no roll calls, no names written down. We measure our activity by the number of coffee cups we use and the number of cans of pop sold,” Clark said.

One person may come 20 times, Clark said, so the number is merely an estimation.

Clark said the Narcotics Anonymous group might have 30 people in a meeting dealing with opiate, heroin and methamphetamine addictions. These are different kinds of problems than what the group has dealt with in the past, he said.

“Still there’s the classic alcoholics — these are people 35, 40 years old and alcoholism has finally matured in their lives and is causing them trouble. But probably 8 out of 10 that come to the Alano Club have drug problems.”

The drugs causing problems are opiates, narcotics, heroin, prescription drugs and methamphetamine, Clark said.

“This is a place where people can go to find a safe refuge from that life and meet other people who are in recovery who are clean and sober and know how to do that,” Clark said.

The Alano Club is funded through rent payments from the meeting groups and fundraising events like this weekend’s Cracker Barrel, which features guest speakers on drug and alcohol abuse and is open to the public.

For more information on the Alano Club, call 816-364-9179 or visit the website.


Brandon Zenner | News-Press NOW  

St. Joseph Christian head coach Troy Schenk instructs his team during a play install Friday at St. Joseph Christian School.