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Paint It Gold | Griffons’ joint fundraising campaign benefits United Way
United Way and Western athletics team up for Paint it Gold fundraiser

The United Way and Missouri Western State University athletics teamed up Thursday for the annual Paint it Gold fundraising campaign.

The event raises money for the United Way and encourages people to support Western athletics as it kicks off next week.

Members from United Way and the athletic department were set up at 22nd Street and Garfield Avenue as well as Mitchell Avenue and Noyes Boulevard, collecting donations from cars passing by. There also were individuals who went to businesses around town to hand out fliers and posters.

Jodi Bloemker, director of community investment for United Way, looks forward to interacting with the different coaches and athletes each year.

“It’s a great way to get athletes engaged with United Way and maybe they’ll continue to volunteer with us in lots of different ways,” Bloemker said.

The two groups have partnered for several year and raise on average $1,500 to $3,00 each year.

“It’s all from people just going through the intersections giving quarters or dollars and every piece counts,” Bloemker said.

Andrew Wright is on the Western cross-country team and loved helping out with the fundraiser to be able to talk to people from the community.

“I’m not from here, so it’s good to get out into the community. I really loved it,” Wright said.

The intersections were full of people passing by and talking to the variety of volunteers, coaches and athletes who helped from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.

“We only have a few seconds to talk to people, but they’re all really supportive of what we are doing out here,” Bloemker said.

Bloemker and the United Way are thankful for all that the community and Western contributed to the fundraiser, and are excited to support Griffon athletics.

Western athletics start next week with the first home football game on Thursday, Sept. 5, and home soccer games on Friday, Sept. 6, and Sunday, Sept. 8.

NWMSU Green and White Scrimmage

Showdown upcoming

Northwest Missouri State’s football team finished up fall camp with their green and white scrimmage Thursday in preparation for their season opener against Missouri Western.

Details on Page C1

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Study: Buchanan County has below-average rate of distracted driving crashes

A new study suggests Buchanan County is among the safest counties in Missouri for distracted driving, even though state law doesn’t prohibit older drivers from using their phones to text and talk on the roadway.

According to a study conducted by ValuePenguin, a data analysis company for car insurance, about 10 crashes per 1,000 residents occur in the county because of distracted driving. That makes Buchanan County the sixth safest in the state for counties with over 50,000 residents. The study said Franklin County is the worst in the state for distracted crashes, with more than 23 per 1,000 residents.

The study’s author, Mark Fitzpatrick, said he looked at data from 2015-2017 provided by the Missouri Traffic Accident Records System. He said the purpose of the study was to test the theory that young people are involved in more distracted driving crashes than older adults.

“There’s this ongoing narrative with younger drivers being distracted with texting,” Fitzpatrick said. “We decided to look at Missouri and see if this is the case.”

According to the study, that notion is true. The study said younger drivers, ages 15 to 19, were more than three times more likely to be involved in a crash caused by distracted driving in Buchanan County.

“It seems that they do get into more distracted driving crashes and it happens at a much higher rate,” Fitzpatrick said.

In Northwest Missouri, Gentry County had the lowest overall distracted driving crash rate with 4 crashes per 1,000 residents. Both Worth and Holt counties are between 4 and 5 crashes per 1,000 residents, while Nodaway and Livingston counties both have more than 10 crashes per 1,000 residents.

Livingston County also has the highest distracted driving crash rate for young adults. According to the study, the county had 46.3 distracted crashes for young people per 1,000 residents. That’s almost 10 points higher than the next highest county in that category, which is Atchinson County.

St. Joseph Police Sgt. James Tonn said he’s not totally surprised by the Buchanan County statistics. He said in his experience, distracted driving isn’t one of the leading causes of crashes in St. Joe.

Tonn said Missouri doesn’t have a “hands free” law for adults, meaning it’s legal for those 21 years of age and older to text and call while driving. He said that even though it’s legal, he doesn’t recommend it.

“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” Tonn said. “In just one second, one thing could cost you your life.”

Citing the STAR data, the ValuePenguin study said just over 12 percent of distracted driving crashes are caused by communication devices in Missouri. Overall, about 4 percent of all crashes in the state were caused by handheld communication devices.

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United SJSD discusses 2020 start dates

Thursday’s United SJSD meeting was quick, clocking in at about 35 minutes, but topics for discussion certainly weren’t lacking.

Chief among them was that start dates for schools are now set by the state. As a result, school can no longer start before Aug. 24.

“We will come back to this at a later date, but we just wanted to get that Aug. 24 date in front of everybody,” said Dr. Michele Norman, the director of elementary education within the district, who led Thursday’s discussions. “We’ll have to adjust our calendar, and one of the things that’s been important to this group is having first semester in before Christmas so that we can do finals before Christmas break. We’ll have to take a look at that; we might have to have first semester go on into January.”

Discussions were tabled, and a “very rough draft” of the calendar was provided to members of the committee.

A later discussion looked at closing future United SJSD meetings to the public as well as the press.

The group is currently a board committee, complete with a staff cameraman and usually a board member present. However, according to some members of the committee, closing the group to the public may allow for more in-depth conversations.

“From some of the conversations we’ve had with some individuals, they’re not really comfortable with having other cameras in the room and may feel like that may be inhibiting some conversation,” said school board member Lori Prussman. “This group was created in order to create a safe place to come and have those conversations.”

Discussions are pending on the decision, and Norman said that having the ability to have open, honest dialogue with each other is very important to the committee.

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Red Lion closure affects downtown tourism tax

The closing of St. Joseph’s only Downtown hotel means no revenue is coming into the Downtown portion of the hotel-motel tax, and the city says the hotel is behind in tax payments.

The Red Lion hotel, owned by Inner Circle Investments, hosted guests during a Downtown event in July, but closed its doors after.

Inner Circle did not respond to calls or emails from News-Press NOW for comment.

St. Joseph Director of Planning and Community Development Clint Thompson said the owners have expressed plans to renovate or sell the building, but nothing has been finalized.

“The owner has stated that they have a desire to possibly retrofit the property either into a mix of housing and hotel units, keep the property branded as a hotel or even to consider an offer to sell,” Thompson said.

The hotel was the only entity generating revenue for the city’s transient guest tax for the Downtown portion of the fund, which now has a low balance.

The tax originated as a 3 percent tax on stays in hotels, motels and other lodgings that helped to fund the Civic Arena and Missouri Theater. In 2011, the tax was increased to 6 percent, with the newly added 3 percent portion split between Downtown and riverfront development.

From that 3 percent, lodgings outside of the Downtown district generate funds to be used only for riverfront development and lodgings within the Downtown district generate funds that can only be used within that district for tourism-related projects.

The closure of the Red Lion Hotel means the Downtown portion of that balance is no longer seeing income.

Thompson said the hotel has been delinquent on those tax payments for the last three quarters, and it owes around $18,000, which the city is trying to obtain.

“The Red Lion still is obligated to pay that debt,” Thompson said. “The city is working to make sure that we can collect on that amount owed and any other taxes owed to any other taxing district.”

Property tax statements from the 2018 tax year show that the property had a total unpaid amount of more than $200,000. Just over $40,000 of that amount was in penalties.

Thompson said the hotel typically generates around $50,000 a year for the Downtown portion

of the tax.

That portion of the fund currently has around $25,000 available, but the City Council will be voting at their next meeting on whether or not to spend $15,000 of that for Downtown holiday lights.

Thompson said the lack of lodging Downtown is causing more problems than just a loss of tax revenue.

“It is the only hotel Downtown and in working with the Civic Arena or any other businesses in or around Downtown, it’s a negative to the area not to have a hotel within the walking distance of the attractions or the amenities Downtown,” Thompson said.

The city plans to work with the current owners or any new owners in order to see reinvestment at the hotel.

Playing for keeps

Preseason ends; Now it’s for keeps

Kansas City Chiefs now prepare for regular season beginning with Jacksonville Jaguars Sept 8.

Details on Page C1