No injuries reported at two house fires

Breaking news report on two local fires / 220 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — A stove fire resulted in damage to kitchen cabinets but no injuries Tuesday at 3310 Jamesdale Road.

A second fire at 4515 Rice Road was also reported. There were no injuries, but more details were not available.

Columbia Fire Department responded to the Jamesdale Road fire with three engines, one ladder, a heavy rescue squad and two incident command vehicles at 4:47 p.m. Public Information Officer Steven Sapp said that is the normal turnout for a residential fire of this nature.

“It was a quick knockdown,” Sapp said of the crew’s work to extinguish the fire.

Residents of the three adjoining apartments were evacuated to ensure their safety while firefighters checked the two-level brick building for signs the fire had spread. None were found, and the residents were allowed back into their homes.

Jamesdale Road was closed to traffic until firefighters drained the supply line from the nearby hydrant and returned the fire hose to the truck.

The building owner had been informed of the fire and was on his way, Sapp said. He did not release the owner’s name, and estimates of the damages were not immediately available.

According to Sapp, November through March are typically the busiest fire months both nationally and locally, but Columbia tends to fall below the national average with fewer and less serious fires.

No injuries reported in Columbia Area Career Center tractor fire

Breaking news report on fire at local school / 380 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — A 1969 Ford tractor caught fire during a welding class at the Columbia Area Career Center on Tuesday afternoon. All students were evacuated immediately, but no one was injured.

The call to the Columbia Fire Department at 2:34 p.m. was initially a fire alarm alert and was quickly upgraded to a structure fire, according to Capt. John Metz.

He said five teachers used portable fire extinguishers to put out the blaze, which did not spread beyond the tractor.

The flames had already been extinguished when firefighters arrived. The career center, at 4203 S. Providence Road, is adjacent to Rock Bridge High School.

The fire marshal is investigating to determine the cause of the blaze, Metz said.

Welding instructor William Irvin said he pulled a fire alarm, and he’s sure he wasn’t the only one. Columbia Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Nick Boren, himself a former welding instructor, rushed to the Rock Bridge campus from his office.

Three fire engines, one ladder and a squad of firefighters, all from Columbia, were on the scene about five minutes after the call came in, Metz said. They remained for about an hour ventilating smoke and fire extinguisher dust.

Damage was estimated at $7,000, according to a press release from the fire department.

Boren said 17 high school students were in the classroom, some working on the tractor’s carburetor and others welding metal cages, when a spark ignited fumes or spilled gas.

Several large red Power MIG welders were stationed around the shop, but Boren said their tanks are full of a non-flammable mixture of carbon dioxide and argon gas.

Faculty and staff managed the students outside while still getting them home on the buses.

A group of about eight boys received a small cheer from teachers when they inquired about their Robotics First meeting, scheduled for Tuesday night at the school. They moved under a tree for an informal meeting. On another side of the building, a larger group of students sat in shade for an impromptu lesson about protozoans.

By the time most students had dispersed, a sulfur stink lingered, but Metz said the yellow haze from the cloud of released fire extinguisher powder had settled. All that remained was a fine dusting, revealing the tracks of the firefighters’ boots through the room.

Columbia’s Fourth Ward councilman faces possible recall over reapportionment map

Night-turn story on councilman’s public information meeting that ended in plans to recall him from office / 751 words / The Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, MO. — Outrage filled the Friends Room at the Columbia Public Library on Friday afternoon, culminating in an initiative to recall Fourth Ward Councilman Daryl Dudley.

Angry residents alternately talked over one another, cheered each other on, snickered and shouted down Dudley. He had assembled them for a public meeting to discuss his latest proposal for how to redraw the city’s ward boundaries.

He did little talking.

Amidst accusations of gerrymandering, some of the roughly 40 people in attendance started plotting ways to recall him from office. Dudley was elected to the seat in April 2010.

Going into the meeting, concern focused mostly on the political impact of Dudley’s proposal. As previously reported in the Missourian, some of Dudley’s critics charge that the precincts he would move into the First Ward are those where he fared worst in the election that he won by a narrow margin in 2010. It’s an accusation Dudley denied.

“I don’t care about anybody’s voting, their affiliations,” Dudley said in explanation of his proposed amendments to Trial D, one of the four ward reapportionment options that the Columbia City Council is currently considering. “It has nothing to do with if I can get re-elected if I decide to run again.”

A woman who said she lived in the Fourth Ward spoke up. “You say you don’t care what the voting patterns are. … But you’re familiar with them, right? And what the impact (of your new plan) would be?”

Dudley answered that yes, he was familiar with the demographics and voting patterns of his ward.

“So isn’t it your obligation to care?” she asked. “I’m asking you to take accountability for the impact. You can’t just say you don’t care.”

Coming out of the meeting, the sense pervaded among residents that they were not being listened to and not receiving adequate representation.

Intention and impact

Dudley maintained that the motive behind his map is strictly geographic.

He repeatedly referred to the infrastructure needs of central city neighborhoods. He asserted that consolidating the shared interests of those property owners into one ward would give them a stronger voice.

“I want better attention for the First Ward,” Dudley said.

“And every neighborhood association in the First Ward wants Plan E,” someone called out.

As with many other times the crowd felt they had undermined one of Dudley’s assertions, chortling could be heard throughout the room.

“I was elected by the Fourth Ward,” Dudley said. “I am here for the entire city.”

“You said you represent the city not the ward, but that’s not true,” Elizabeth Hornbeck said. “We live in Ward Four and we got to vote for one person. … So that means you represent us, not the people in other wards. I’m sorry I have to explain that to you.”

Dudley said that the amount of support he’s received for his plans roughly equals the amount of opposition he’s faced. But, when repeatedly asked for evidence of support for his plans, Dudley could not specify any names.

He also said that about 99.7 percent of the people in his ward really don’t care one way or another about the reapportionment.

One member of the public confirmed he had heard Dudley correctly. “Then I think the rest who do care are in this room,” he said.


A flier made its way around the meeting room before the session began that asked “Is It Time To Recall Ward 4 Councilman Daryl Dudley?” Several in attendance, including those onboard to help with the recall, claimed they did not know who had put it out.

Jeannette Jackson is vice president of the Park Hill Neighborhood Association.

“In the face of all the opposition and all the good arguments that have been made in front of you, it is not understandable how you could (choose to) not represent a significant part of your constituency,” she said, adding that she was speaking on behalf of the entire association, which represents about 115 homes.

Speaking as a citizen, she added, “This sucks. It really sucks.”

Jackson said she could come to no other conclusion than to assume that Dudley was working on behalf of a hidden agenda. “He is not representing his constituents,” she said.

Hank Ottinger, chair of the Historic Old Southwest Neighborhood Association, has an idea of who could be pulling Dudley’s strings. “I think it’s the development community, the Chamber of Commerce, the Republican establishment,” he said.

Dudley looked exhausted as he tried to fend off such claims after the meeting.


Boone County Presiding Commissioner Ed Robb dies

Breaking news story on the death of the presiding county commissioner / 1280 words / The Columbia Missourian 

By Alexandria Baca and Hilary Niles

COLUMBIA, MO. — Ed Robb was a tough politician whose expertise in economics and budgeting made him a formidable foe, former political opponents and colleagues said. As a Republican, he didn’t mind going after public offices traditionally held by Democrats.

Robb, who had been Boone County’s presiding commissioner since Jan. 1, died Saturday night, his wife, Rosa Robb, confirmed Sunday morning.

Robb, 69, was elected to the county’s top position in November and sworn in just days after he had a pacemaker installed to address an irregular heartbeat.

Robb was having dinner to celebrate the birthday of his son, Adam Robb, at Boone Tavern on Saturday night and was in good spirits when he left the restaurant after 10 p.m., family friend Yancy Williams told the Missourian. He collapsed on the street as he was leaving and was taken to University Hospital, where hospital staff could not revive him.

Under state law, Gov. Jay Nixon will be responsible for appointing Robb’s replacement. Cheri Reisch, vice chairwoman of the Boone County Republican Party Central Committee, said that group will make a recommendation to Nixon. She was unsure how soon or exactly how that might happen. The committee’s next regular meeting is Tuesday night.

Robb, a Republican, served two terms as 24th District state representative from 2004 through 2008 and was vice chairman of the House Budget Committee. He defeated Democrat Travis Ballenger by more than 2,000 votes in the November 2004 election to become the first Republican to represent the district in more than 20 years. The 24th District includes parts of southern Columbia and southern Boone County.

He then narrowly defeated Democrat and former Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Jim Ritter for re-election in 2006. He sought a third term but lost by 411 votes to Democrat Chris Kelly in 2008.

Robb and Kelly set a record for money spent on a state representative campaign; together they spent nearly $400,000.

Kelly, who said he knew Robb for more than 25 years, said that although the two had an excellent working relationship, it became more tense during the 2008 campaign.

Robb was gracious after losing the election, Kelly said, wishing him well and offering help.

“He was a dedicated public servant,” Kelly said. “He cared very much about what he did by doing it right.”

Robb’s campaign against Ritter was particularly aggressive.

“When I was out on the campaign trail going door to door, I would often see him in the same area,” Ritter recalled. He said they would exchange greetings in passing, but they never stopped to talk.

“We had work to do,” he said. “It was never antagonistic between the two of us.”

Before becoming political opponents, the two worked together in a limited capacity on school issues.

“We had used him for advice and counsel on some of the issues we had been facing,” Ritter said. “So I knew him in a more casual way, in that sense.”

Ritter said he last saw Robb a couple of weeks ago at Columbia Mall, where they chatted about Robb’s new position on the county commission.

“He asked me if I would buy the (Boone County) Fairgrounds — tongue in cheek, of course,” Ritter said.

“Our philosophies were different, we found that out,” Ritter said. “As a result, I probably would have disagreed with some of his opinions” as county commissioner. “But that’s what politics is all about.”

Williams, of Consolidated Capital and Consulting, helped Robb with his three campaigns for state representative.

“He was a fatherly figure,” Williams said. “He was someone who was a friend first and a client second.”

Williams described Robb as compassionate, patient and understanding, which he said is illustrated by his commitment to teaching.

Robb was a retired economics professor at MU and owned Edward H. Robb and Associates, an economics consulting firm.

Robb defeated Democrat J. Scott Christianson for presiding commissioner last fall. He won by a margin of 531 votes among the nearly 50,000 cast.

One of his priorities in county government was to seek voter approval of a home-rule charter that would add more commissioners and give Boone County more legislative authority. He said in a previous Missourian story that he wanted voters to decide in April whether to create a commission to draft a charter.

“I think Ed was a big-idea guy. Ed always believed in the concept that we ought to have a more efficient system of county government,” Kelly said. “I believed that and supported that idea for many years.”

Neither Boone County Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin nor Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller could be reached for comment.

As the two remaining commissioners, Elkin and Miller can continue to do county business as a quorum. If one of them were unavailable to vote on an important matter, Presiding Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler would be empowered to do so under state law.

County Clerk Wendy Noren is responsible for appointing either Elkin or Miller to preside. She said that when Presiding Commissioner Norma Robb died while in office in 1985, she alternated presiding status among the two remaining commissioners. Norma Robb and Ed Robb were not related.

In appointing Ed Robb’s replacement, Nixon is not bound to follow the recommendation of the Republican Central Committee.

Robb came to Columbia in 1972 to take a position as director of MU’s new Economic Research Center, according to a previous Missourian story. He told Missourian reporter Spencer Willems in 2008 that he was not initially drawn to politics.

“I loved chemistry. I loved mathematics,” he said. “I loved how precise everything could be, and how impactful that was.”

An education in economics, Robb said, established a good foundation for life.

Thinking like an economist “gives you a structured approach to a lot of things, to most things, really,” he said. “From a business standpoint, from a managerial standpoint … the strict application of economic theory can make life very simple if you follow the rules.”

Schaefer said Robb was a tremendous help to him when he campaigned for state Senate against incumbent Democrat Chuck Graham in 2008. “Ed was already established and was very supportive in sharing resources to make my campaign a success,” he said.

“Ed could be pretty gruff, but he was a very, very smart man, very intelligent,” Schaefer said. “He had strong feelings on what was best for the economy and the state of Missouri.”

After Schaefer was appointed to the Senate Appropriations Committee, he often would seek Robb’s advice. “He had a tremendous wealth of knowledge on the state budget,” he said.

Former 21st District State Rep. Steve Hobbs of Mexico, Mo., said Robb already was famous for his expertise in budgeting when Hobbs arrived at the Capitol after being elected in 2002.

“I knew how much he cared for his family and how much he loved Rosa and how much he enjoyed living in Columbia,” Hobbs said. “He deeply cared for the university.

“He was a numbers guy,” Hobbs continued. “If you wanted to argue with him, you’d better have the facts.”

Robb was born July 1, 1942, in Chicago. He earned his undergraduate degree from Bradley University and his master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from Michigan State University.

He also is survived by five children.

Funeral arrangements were pending. The Robb family said in a statement that it is “grateful for the tremendous outpouring of love, prayers and support.” The family asked “for continued prayers and for privacy at this time.”

Hobbs said he and Robb became fast and lasting friends while working in the General Assembly.

“You have the pain of the loss,” Hobbs said, “but that’s quickly replaced by good memories, and that makes it all OK.”


MU alumna Jennifer Wilson killed in South Carolina

News brief on the death of a local university alum / 335 words / The Columbia Missourian

ST. LOUIS — A young professor who received her doctorate from MU was killed Sunday morning in South Carolina.

Jennifer Wilson, 36, taught at the University of South Carolina, after leaving Missouri in 2005.

Hank Hawes, 37, was charged with murder. According to an incident report filed by the Columbia, S.C., police department, he was identified by a neighbor as the victim’s boyfriend.

South Carolina news reports quoted colleagues and students of Wilson’s as saying she was trying to end the relationship and was concerned about his aggression.

The neighbor who reported the incident echoed this description, advising police that Hawes had previously attempted to intimidate him with firearms “with possible silencing devices on them.”

Hawes was detained Sunday at a South Carolina hospital after a failed suicide attempt. Hawes is currently being detained in a county detention center, where he awaits a hearing with a circuit court judge to hear the charges against him.

Wilson was found at about 11:30 a.m. after police made two visits to her residence.

According to the Columbia, S.C., police records, Wilson’s neighbor reported a disturbance at approximately 2:26 a.m. Sunday.

The neighbor said he heard “furniture banging around and the victim screaming the words, ‘No! No! No!’”

No one answered her locked door when officers arrived the first time. The same neighbor called again at 11:30 a.m., concerned about a possible homicide.

When police returned the second time, they found Wilson’s body inside.

According to Jennifer Timmons, a public information officer with the Columbia, S.C., police, Wilson was “stabbed multiple times.”

The time and place of memorial services has not been released.

Wilson earned her doctorate at MU in 2004. She worked as a graduate assistant, research assistant, student teacher supervisor and graduate teaching instructor from 2001 to 2005.

She was awarded numerous scholarships throughout her studies in Missouri, and spent a year in Norway as a Fulbright scholar.

She specialized in education for middle school teachers, presenting scholarly papers internationally in France, Norway, China, Hungary and throughout the United States.