bicentennial bridge

An artist's rendition of the Bicentennial Bridge.

• Moberly-based Orscheln Farm and Home is being acquired by Tractor Supply Company in a $297 million all-cash deal. Both have stores in Jefferson City. Orscheln operates 167 stores in 11 states. Tractor Supply, based in Tennessee, has 1,923 stores in 49 states. Both companies retail products for care of home, land, pets and animals. The first Orscheln Farm and Home store opened in 1960 at Sedalia.

• The Missouri State Penitentiary is open again for tours and anticipating a much-improved 2021 tourist season. Last year about 13,000 people visited the facility, down from 33,000 in 2018. COVID-19 protocols will continue to limit capacity. The facility, which was shuttered in 2004, offers historical, paranormal and photography tours that range from two hours to overnight. Located on the city’s east side, the facility served as Missouri’s primary maximum-security institution since 1836.

• The Jefferson City school board of education has established a timeline for deciding how to expand its facilities to address overcrowding in the district. District officials are considering several options that include new elementary and middle schools. Currently 11 of the district’s 15 K-8 buildings are utilizing outbuildings or “trailers” to house students. The district has begun the process of gathering community input and is eyeing the April 2022 election if voter approval is necessary.

• The school board also approved the 2021-22 school calendar for Jefferson City public schools. The first day of school will be Aug. 23. The last day will be May 24, unless extended because of weather make-up days. Spring break will be March 28-April 1. The board declined to approve a proposal from staff for weekly 70-minute early release days on most Mondays.

• Construction has begun on the Bicentennial Bridge, a 765-foot, $3.75 million bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Union Pacific railroad tracks that will link the Capitol grounds near the Veteran’s Memorial with Adrian’s Island, a 30-acre parcel of forest and wetlands on the Missouri River. The project was hoped to be completed in time for the bicentennial celebration this August but gathering all the necessary permits has it running about six months behind schedule.

• Retired Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan, of Jefferson City, has been appointed special prosecutor in the case against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the gun-wielding St. Louis couple who pointed their semi-automatics at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their Central West End mansion last summer. Both were charged with unlawful use of a weapon and evidence tampering. Gov. Mike Parson has said he will pardon the McCloskeys if they are convicted.

• Safety concerns from residents in western Cole County has prompted the county commission to hire a study of speed limits on Henwick Lane, Rainbow Drive and Highland Waye. The county will pay Bartlett & West $19,612 to study speed and safety issues on those roads. The study will be funded by the county’s one-half cent sales tax. Bartlett & West is an engineering firm specializing in infrastructure headquartered in Topeka, KS. It has a division located in Jefferson City.

• St. Louis-based Ranken Technical College is planning expansion to Ashland with a new $7 million, 23,000 square-foot facility. The effort is a partnership between Ranken, the Southern Boone School District, Mid-Missouri Regional Planning Commission and the city of Ashland. A fundraising committee has been established, with hopes of construction beginning in 2022. Ranken has current locations in St. Louis, Perryville and Wentzville. Their programs include construction, manufacturing, health care and information technology.

• The school district is going to court to obtain a final piece of property it needs for construction of a new $8 million athletic facility at Jefferson City High School. The district filed an eminent domain lawsuit for the property at 419 Union St. after repeated unsuccessful attempts to contact the owners. Current appraised value of the property is $7,000. The new facility will be located across Jackson Street from Adkins Stadium. It will include a new baseball/softball complex, lighted soccer field, and a tennis complex. Construction is expected to begin in May and be complete by fall.

• Jefferson City council is discussing an addition to the city’s sale tax that would be put before voters this August. The city will likely seek renewal of a one-half cent sales tax for capital improvements that comes up every five years, similar to the one currently being sought by Cole County. The proposed new tax would be an addition of one-fourth cent, earmarked to be used specifically for public safety purposes. A half-cent Cole County law enforcement sales tax drops to three-eights in 2022, so the net increase to the overall sale tax total would result in one-eighth cent. The city council has until late May to make a decision in time to get the question on the August ballot.

(Mike Murphy is President of BUZ Communications, which publishes Jefferson City BUZ. Feedback welcome, please send to m.murphy@buzcomm.com)