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Vladimir Horowitz’s personal Steinway piano

Leah Spratt Hall on Missouri Western’s campus will be the place where the legendary Steinway piano Vladimir Horowitz used will be on display. Details on Page B4

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Sewer billing changes approved

The St. Joseph City Council has approved a change in the way sewer usage is calculated, but the city predicts it won’t have much of an impact on customers’ bills.

Sewer usage is determined based on water usage reported to City Hall. Prior to this change, flow usage was rounded to the nearest 100 cubic feet, which matched how Missouri-American Water Co. used to report.

New meters have led to gradual changes in the way it records water usage and the company has been reporting based on 100 gallons. The city code required that it be rounded in cubic feet, so a conversion had to be done in order to calculate the charges.

Councilmember Gary Roach, who sponsored the ordinance, said the change will save time and make it easier for the billing department.

“If it’s going to make things easier to figure for them, then I think it’s pretty good,” Roach said.

Director of Public Works and Transportation Andy Clements said, except for in rare cases, price should remain the exact same for customers.

He said those whose usage was near the rounding point could see a slight change and actual revenue to the city is predicted to remain the same.

“If you were getting billed in terms of your gallons by the water company and kind of in between the cutoff, you might’ve gotten rounded one way or the other,” Clements said. “So, it kind of depends on the individual bill and how that was working out, but overall it’s going to be revenue neutral for St. Joe.”

He said most likely customers will see no change or could save a little depending on if they were rounded up, but it is difficult to know for sure how many cases of that there will be.

“It’s kind of hard to tell in each case because you weren’t able to tell, when they were billed by CCF, where you actually fell. We don’t know that,” Clements said.

The change is scheduled not to go into effect until the next winter average is reset, which ends after March. This is to avoid a midyear change in customers’ sewer bills.

Clements said that meters could eventually become even more accurate, which will call for another change in the way bills are calculated.

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Missouri Speaker of the House visits Western

Missouri Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr has experience in leadership roles, from student government at Missouri Western State University to becoming the youngest person in charge of the Missouri House of Representatives.

Haahr visited MWSU, from which he graduated in 2005, on Thursday.

“The best football game I’ve ever been to was at Missouri Western,” Haahr said. “We played Northwest Missouri State and we were down 24-6 at halftime and we came back to win in overtime.”

Instead of worrying about football, Haahr now tackles the issues of the day like expanding Medicaid, reducing gun violence and handling record flooding.

“We’ve got a group of legislators researching around the country what other states have done (to reduce gun violence),” Haahr said. “We’re trying to figure out what other states have been doing to allow cities to combat that violence.”

He said he expected legislative proposals for when the state legislature reconvenes in January, but did not back a specific proposal such as “red flag” laws. The city of St. Joseph recently made it against city ordinance for minors to possess ammunition in most circumstances.

“It’s a larger question than just ‘where are the guns coming from?’” he said. “Really, what we’re looking at is the investigation of crimes because 90 percent of crimes are committed by 10 percent of criminals, so how do we find those criminals and put those criminals away.”

Haahr also touted a recent trip to the desert where he said he viewed a test track for a proposed “hyperloop” being built by the company Virgin. Haahr said Missouri is among the finalists for a longer test track, and that the legislature was lobbying for the project, but said the first actual hyperloop probably will be built in India.

“If you can go to Denver in an hour, or St. Louis in 20 minutes, how does that impact how we live, work and play?” Haahr said. “The track in the desert is only a half kilometer, that’s why they want to build the next test track.”

In terms of recent flooding, Haahr said he wasn’t sure there was anything more the legislature could do to help fix the problem, but he acknowledged the problem.

“We’re trying to provide as much assistance to the executive branch as we can in that case,” he said.

As for Medicaid expansion, Haahr seemed opposed on the basis that it might take away tax dollars directed toward higher education.

Instead, Haahr said the state must make sure the dollars already available go to those who are eligible.

“We worked through that process pretty significantly,” he said. “I have concerns with the expansion of Medicaid because we have a mandatory balanced budget.”

The state-run Medicaid program, currently only provides health insurance to children, pregnant women and certain seniors.

A group pushing to have an expansion of Medicaid directly on the ballot, and thereby bypassing the legislature, says expanding the program could insure 200,000 additional people.

2 in child abuse case sentenced to prison

A case of child abuse that began more than a year ago ended Thursday morning for two of the three people accused of locking a child in a cage and starving her for several months.

Jennifer Reed and Raymond Burks received sentences of 22 years and 18 years in prison, respectively, after entering guilty pleas in the case.

The two were charged with abusing an 11-year-old girl in their care by handcuffing her to a cage and withholding food from her as a form of punishment from July 2017 to February of 2018.

Both Reed and Burks originally had more than 40 charges filed against them alleging they also used a stun gun and beat the child. The original charges included 10 kidnapping charges, nine domestic assault charges, six armed criminal action charges, 16 endangering the welfare of a child charges and one charge for child abuse or neglect.

On Sept. 6, Reed accepted a plea deal to reduce her charges to two counts of first-degree kidnapping and two counts of first-degree endangering the welfare of a child. Burks accepted a similar deal Thursday.

The only difference in the plea agreements was that Reed would be sentenced to the maximum 15 years for her kidnapping charges and the maximum seven years for her endangering the welfare of a child charges, while Burks would be sentenced to 13 years for the kidnapping charges and five years for the endangering the welfare of a child charges.

Reed was sentenced to a total of 22 years with the requirement that she serve almost 13 years before being eligible for parole.

Burks pleaded guilty to his four charges Thursday, and after waiving a sentencing assessment report, he was sentenced to a total 18 years with the requirement that he serve a little more than 11 years before being eligible for parole.

One more defendant remains in the case. Lonnie Johnson is accused of abusing the 11-year-old girl and hiding evidence of said abuse. He is charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree and one count of tampering with evidence in a felony prosecution. He is set to appear in court Thursday, Nov. 7.

Twice the flow | U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirms higher water-release levels
Missouri River will remain at high level into December

OMAHA, Neb. — The lower Missouri River will remain high into December because of the large amount of water being released from dams into the river.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the amount of water being released from the Gavins Point dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will remain at a level more than twice what is typical for this time of year — 80,000 cubic feet per second — into mid-December.

Officials do not expect significant new flooding along the river because of the high releases. But many levees remain damaged from severe flooding in the spring, allowing the floodwaters to flow into many farm fields and rural areas.

The amount of rain and melting snow flowing into the river has remained exceptionally high this fall, and wet weather is expected to continue through the end of the year.