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Education
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Bill would inject Hillyard Center funding; collegiate ties TBD
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Legislation sponsored by St. Joseph’s delegate to the Missouri Senate aims to support the Hillyard Technical Center and operating agencies, whomever they end up being.

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer explained Thursday he is urging the Legislature to pass appropriations worth $1.1 million in additional funding for the center, which trains area students in STEM and practical job skills, while also hosting an annex of Metropolitan Community College of Kansas City, Missouri.

“Increasing our investment in this program will ensure young people are better prepared to hit the ground running in today’s increasingly competitive and highly complex work environment,” Luetkemeyer said in his announcement of the proposal, ahead of answering follow-up questions.

MCC’s role is subject to change, as Luetkemeyer continues to promote SB 390, which if passed as written would take MCC’s jurisdiction over Buchanan County public school districts and unite it with Grundy County’s institution, North Central Missouri College of Trenton. The two concepts are separate in nature, and involve different pieces of legislation, but their potential effects are closely interrelated.

The common idea: Upgrade St. Joseph’s system for career and technical education, which area legislators and businesses agree is not producing enough workers who have expertise in areas of plumbing, welding and auto maintenance, for the sake of offering a few examples. In a Thursday phone interview, Chamber of Commerce President R. Patt Lilly reaffirmed these community needs.

Nobody argues with more funding, but the Missouri Community College Association continues to regard SB 390 as an unwise intervention in the relationships between its members. This position is supported by both MCC and NCMC. Missouri’s junior colleges are assigned to different areas based on collective agreement, and the Association considers SB 390 as one that will lead to lawmakers telling them what to do and how to do it, without a connection to local needs.

“Our testimony is based on how this would set a bad precedent,” said Brian Millner, association president. “So, if the bill passes, Buchanan County will be the only county in the state of Missouri drawn (externally) into a service region, and we’ve just maintained the position ... the community colleges have always been able to work through any issues of needing to alter or amend service regions. That has worked well since they were created in the 1990s.”

Luetkemeyer said he considers this take to be based primarily on internal collegiate politics and rivalries. The senator alluded to how MCC’s history of active involvement at Hillyard for the last three years is predated by NCMC initiatives, such as the North Belt Center at 6503 North Belt Highway. Hillyard itself was built in 1941 and has since been expanded. The institution won’t be fundamentally changed and can continue to grow, Luetkemeyer explained, regardless of who is running the show.

“What I would say is this: If this bill passes and NCMC becomes the service provider for Buchanan County, they will be an excellent partner,” he said. “NCMC has been providing junior collegiate services for years, before MCC ever came here.”


Public_safety
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Police: body found on Pear Street Wednesday identified as Cody Grace
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Police have identified the body found on Pear Street to be Cody Dustin Grace, 26. Grace was discovered late Wednesday night and the cause of death remains unknown.

Grace was discovered by a passerby in the same water-filled roadside ditch where four people were killed in a car accident on April 9. A memorial for the four accident victims, mother Amy Morse and her three kids, Rosalie Morse, 3, Braxtin Grace, 2, and Anastasia Grace, 1, still sits above the water near the ditch.

According to memorial obituaries for Braxtin and Anastasia, Grace was the father of the two victims.

“We got a call of what appears to be a body in a small body of water that happens to be the same location of the fatality accident a few weeks ago with the children in the car,” St. Joseph Police Cpt. Dan Sweiger said.

The night of the car accident, about six feet of water filled the ditch. When the body was discovered Wednesday, the water had partially receded. Police do not know how long the body was there but did say it appeared it had been exposed to the elements for at least some period of time.

Police alerted the public to Grace being an endangered missing person Wednesday morning, the original date of his disappearance is unknown.

The cause of the fatal car accident also remains under investigation and has not been released.


Coronavirus
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COVID-19 cases down across the board
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In Missouri, the seven-day COVID-19 trend is down 18% from the previous week and numbers are dropping locally as well.

According to the St. Joseph Health Department, Buchanan County has a positivity rate of 3.7%, and the 14-day case trend has remained flat.

Regional counties are down as well as state numbers, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Andrew and Nodaway counties each have had one new case in the past seven days. Clinton, Caldwell and DeKalb counties have had no new cases in seven days.

Mosaic Life Care announced they had zero patients for COVID-19 last week. Cameron Regional Medical Center has been seeing a similar trend. Hospital Administrator Joseph Abrutz Jr. said they are still diligent but or now finally seeing a drop.

“We’re seeing the COVID pandemic is starting to decrease, we’re not testing as many people and we probably have one or two impatiens now instead of 10 so things are starting to reduce, but we are hearing the new strains are coming out,” Abrutz Jr. said.

Abrutz Jr. said there has been a lot of money spent on the pandemic so far and they are ready to prepare for this to be a longer event than just one year. He said there have been things put in place that will make it easier, but additional grants could be beneficial.

“This situation is not a 12-month deal, it’s still spreading out beyond 12 months, and that’s why having a formula to pay back is important, especially when there’s an unknown ... what’s going to mutate and what’s going to hit us next, that’s still a question,” Abrutz said.

In Missouri, the seven-day positivity rate is at 4.9% and there have been 2,191 cases during that time.

Buchanan County has had 18.3% of the county have at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.


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