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Promising signs seen for NWMSU, Western move-in days

MARYVILLE, Mo. — Dawson Parks came to Northwest Missouri State University to play football, and now there’s no football, at least for now. He accepts it.

“It’s good to be back with everyone, because being in quarantine sorta sucked.”

Parks, of Kansas City, Missouri, who had intended to commence his career on the collegiate gridiron as a quarterback for the Bearcats, is one of 1,883 who signed up for on-campus housing and one of 1,745 who had moved in by Sunday afternoon, ahead of the Wednesday first day of classes. Together with Missouri Western State University, which is scheduled to fill 1,060 of its 1,225 available beds on campus, the data may reflect confidence among students that the COVID-19 safeguards in place are good.

Dr. Hannah Piechowski, Missouri Western associate vice president and dean of students, said the first day of the move-in process produced a line of cars queued for residence hall check-in as far as the eye can see. The weather has also been unseasonably pleasant. Everything just seems to be going well, when there’s a lot that could have gone wrong during the pandemic.

“I think a lot of our students want to come back,” she said. “I think they’ve had several months at home where they haven’t seen their friends, and they haven’t been in a college community. Just seeing their excitement when they’re coming up, I know they’re glad to be back.”

Pfc. Ameen Agunbiade, of Kansas City, Missouri, a soldier in the Missouri Army National Guard, who studies biology and health at Missouri Western, is more knowledgeable than most on the nature of COVID-19.

The key thing for him in getting through the semester will be to stick to the science with regard to social distancing and face coverings. At the same time, with a soldier’s discipline, he is confident and ready to face the challenge without panic.

“If you stress too much on what you can’t control, that’s when things start going bad. But if you adapt to what’s going on, you see that it’s not as bad as it seems and everything will go well,” he said.

Zoe Locke, a Northwest student, is also studying biology, with an emphasis in medical science. She is arriving to campus for the first time from Kansas City, Kansas, and so COVID-19 will help define basically every aspect of her first semester of college, in the classroom, on the campus and in experiencing what college life is all about.

She wears a face covering at all times she is near other people, and said she is pleased that most people at Northwest appear to be following suit. The campus requires face coverings indoors.

“This has kind of helped my realize that things can quickly change and not go exactly how you had planned,” Locke said. “But you have to kind of use those backup plans ... and move according to what’s going on. You know, it’s different, but you have to push forward and do what you’re here to do.”

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Federal levee repair almost done

The process of repairing federal levees in Buchanan county has been moving along over the summer.

Two out of the three levee systems, Halls Levee District and MRLS 455, have work that is going to continue into September. Back in June, a contract was awarded to Fenton Construction out of Sioux City, Iowa, for $1.9 million.

The work needed on both of those systems was minor. MRLS 455 has had boots on the ground there since early July. Since work was able to start on time, the fixes on 455 are very close to being complete.

“They were around 86% done this past week; so probably around 90% done with the flood damage portion,” Mike Dulin, an Emergency Management Specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said.

The flood damage portion was dealing with sand boils on MRLS 455, which was listed as minor damage by the Corps. So in just over a month that process is almost completed. But the levee repairs for the two systems are not complete quite yet.

“With the Halls Levee District, since it is primarily seeding, the contractor will begin work on that in September when our seeding window begins,” Dulin said. ”Because every good lawn maintenance engineer knows, fall and spring are the best times to plant grass.”

MRLS 455 needs to get sodded as well once the weather allows for it. That step is considered the finishing touches on levee restoration. It all looks to be done before the end of the year.

“The contract required completion day is Dec. 29, 2020. So it will finish this winter,” Dulin said. “Odds are if the weather remains cooperative, they could be done sooner than that. But we do have rain delays built in there. Had to use some over the past couple of weeks.”

The cooler temps allow time for the grass to survive and not need to be redone. The third levee in the county, the Rushville/Sugar Lake levee, is still waiting for repairs to be approved from up in Washington, D.C..

“It’s in the National Resources Conservation Services’ court now. They are going through the approval process to grant us permission to go through their Wetland Reserve Program site to rebuild the levee,” Dulin said.

Dulin said that all the environmental documentation that was requested was completed.

So the Corps is just waiting on word on the approval process to work on the Rushville/Sugar Lake levee, which is the one that experienced the most damage in the county. The levee breach has been sitting there all summer long. Dulin estimated the process to take several months to be approved or denied.

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Hot car deaths during pandemic

Despite the pandemic making people stay home for part of the summer, there still have been a number of deaths of children in hot cars.

“I think what a lot of people don’t understand is, we’re creeping toward fall, but it’s still August and September in Missouri. I looked in the forecast and we’ve got an 87-degree day coming in, an 89-degree day, that can get the interior of a car super hot,” Sgt. Jake Angle with Missouri State Highway Patrol, said. “Then the humidity in there, it doesn’t take long for a car to heat up to dangerous levels for small children.”

Officials always encourage people to bring kids with them, even for a quick errand.

“Even if you think it’s for just a few minutes, how many times have you gone and run into the gas station and there are 20 people in there standing in line? Those few extra minutes can be the difference,” Steve Henrickson with the St. Joseph Fire Department, said.

According to statistics collected by a national nonprofit Kids and Cars, there have been 15 deaths across the country this year with the circumstances ranging from left, unknowingly left and getting in on their own, to name a few.

In an article on the nonprofit’s website, the pandemic has presented its own impact, with kids getting into vehicles on their own rather than being left there by an adult.

Angle said if you do see children in a hot car to immediately call for help.

“We obviously don’t want people to run around damaging property, but obviously, dial 911 to get the police there, the fire department there, whatever it takes and gain access to that vehicle to prevent something like that, a tragedy from happening,” Angle said.