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(West Plains) – The West Plains Community Garden will be taking applications for garden plots in the lobby of the West Plains Civic Center on Saturday, March 7 and Sunday, March 8 during the Southern Missouri Home Builders Association Home and Garden Show.

Special gardens and legs for those who use a wheelchair or otherwise find stooping over difficult are available for a $5 rental fee. Ground level gardens are renting this year for $10. Fees will be collected when you fill out an application.

Hours for taking applications will be 9 AM to 5 PM Saturday, March 7 and 11 AM to 4 PM on Sunday, March 8 in the civic center lobby.

For more information about the West Plains Community Garden, call Dawn Hicks at the Howell County Health Department at 417-256-7078.

(Gassville) – Two Gassville residents have been arrested after law enforcement visited the home of a parolee on Tuesday.

39-year-old Joseph Bermingham, who was on parole for felony drug convictions out of Baxter County, was charged Tuesday with felony possession of drug paraphernalia, felon in possession of a firearm, simultaneous weapon and drug possession, criminal possession of body armor, theft by receiving, and possession of a controlled substance. Also arrested was 22-year-old Pamela Pendergrass, who faces similar charges. Pendergrass was out on probation on drug paraphernalia convictions.

Police say that deputies and investigators with the Baxter County Sheriff’s Office and officers from the Gassville Police Department, the 14th Judicial Drug Task Force and officers from the Arkansas Parole and Probation Office conducted a home visit on Bermingham at his residence in Gassville around 2 PM Tuesday.

While at the residence, officers say they located a loaded pistol, prescription pills, suspected marijuana and a grinding device that appeared to have been used to process marijuana, five used syringes with suspected drug residue and other drug paraphernalia, along with $2200 in cash.

Police say that about $11,400 worth of stolen items were found in a tool shed located on the property, including wheels, tires, tools, axles and scrap metal. Marion County investigators say the items are believed to have been taken from a manufacturing facility in Marion County where Bermingham once worked.

At report time, Bermingham was held in the Baxter County Detention Center on $50,000 bond, plus a ‘no bond’ parole hold. Bermingham is also facing felony theft charges out of Marion County. At report time Pendergrass was held on $35,000 bond, and a ‘no bond’ probation hold.

(Thornfield) – An Ava resident suffered minor injuries Thursday morning after the box truck she was driving ran off-road and overturned.

47-year-old Anita Holt was taken from the scene by a private vehicle to seek her own medical treatment, according to a Highway Patrol report.

The accident happened just before 5:30 AM Thursday on Highway 95, about a half-mile south of Thornfield.

(Jefferson City) – The definition of “deadly force” is up for discussion in the Missouri Senate.

The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Wednesday heard Senate Bill 199 and Senate Bill 42, both of which would repeal a provision that allows a law enforcement officer to use deadly force in certain instances. Sen. Bob Dixon (R-Springfield) presented Bill 199:

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Sponsoring Senate Bill 42 is Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis), who explained her bill:

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More debate on these bills is expected in the near future.

(West Plains) – Nomination forms are now available for two Missouri State University awards presented annually by the Missouri State-West Plains and Missouri State-Springfield Alumni Team.

Both awards, the Distinguished Alumni Award and the Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award, will be presented during the Missouri State University annual spring friends and alumni meeting May 7 at the West Plains Civic Center exhibit hall.

The Missouri State-West Plains Distinguished Alumni Award, in its 17th year, recognizes extraordinary achievement in personal and professional endeavors, along with loyalty to the university. The selection committee will review each nominee’s professional experiences, responsibilities and contributions to his or her field, particularly looking at the nominee’s involvement in the community. Nominees must be former students of Missouri State-West Plains.

The Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award, in its sixth year, honors a former full-time or per course Missouri State-West Plains faculty or staff member for achievement in his or her professional or academic field who also has shown a demonstrated commitment to the university’s mission. Nominees need to have previously worked for the university for at least five years and must not currently be employed by the university.

For more information or to obtain nomination forms, call the Missouri State-West Plains development office at 417-255-7240, e-mail the development office at, or stop by the office in Kellett Hall, 905 W. Main St., in West Plains. Nomination forms also can be accessed online at Nominations must be returned to the Missouri State University-West Plains Office of Development, 128 Garfield Ave., on or before Friday, March 27.

by Margaret Stafford, AP

(Springfield) (AP) – Residents in a large swath of southwest Missouri should be less confused about what is happening when a severe storm siren sounds this year, thanks to a new protocol unveiled by a group of weather, emergency management and broadcasting officials.

The process will standardize when and how outdoor warning signals are used and tested so residents will have no doubt that they should get to a shelter when the sirens go off, said Doug Cramer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“It’s very important because just about every single jurisdiction has different rules about using the sirens – when they sound them, do they have an all-clear signal?” Cramer said Thursday. “It causes a lot of confusion for the public as to what a storm siren actually means.”

Cramer joined officials from Joplin, Springfield-Greene County, Branson and broadcasters on Wednesday to announce the voluntary process for Springfield, Joplin and Branson. As of Thursday, 22 municipalities in the Ozarks have expressed interest in the plan. The Ozarks Integrated Warning Team spent 10 months planning the procedure, which is voluntary and free to any municipality.

Under the protocol, the sirens will be activated when the weather service issues a tornado warning or a warning for a thunderstorm producing life-threatening winds. The sirens will generally sound for 3 minutes, be off for 3 minutes and then sound again at 3-minute intervals for as long as the danger persists. There will be no all-clear signal, so people understand that when a siren sounds, they are in danger.

Also, all participating municipalities will test the sirens only at 10 a.m. on the second Wednesday of the month.

“If we could capture one message for the public to understand the sirens, that would be a great benefit to saving lives,” said Chet Hunter, director of the Springfield-Greene County Office of Emergency Management.

Word of the new proposal is spreading quickly, with one northwest Missouri county inquiring after Wednesday’s announcement.

“We think a good chunk of southern Missouri is going to be on an easy-to-understand, common system this storm season,” Cramer said.

The organizers would be pleased to help jurisdictions across the state, or in other states, implement the system, Hunter said.

“If this becomes bigger than what it was intended to be, that would be great,” he said. “If that generic document spreads storm safety through the state, more power to it. We’d be tickled pink because that was the goal.”

by David A. Lieb, AP

FILE - In this Oct. 16, 2014 file photo Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich shows off some of the movie-star photos in his collection of autographed memorabilia from the golden age of Hollywood during at his home in Clayton, Mo. Schweich, a Republican candidate for governor, died Thursday Feb. 26, 2015 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a staff member told The Associated Press.  (By David A. Lieb, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 16, 2014 file photo Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich shows off some of the movie-star photos in his collection of autographed memorabilia from the golden age of Hollywood during at his home in Clayton, Mo. Schweich, a Republican candidate for governor, died Thursday Feb. 26, 2015 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a staff member told The Associated Press. (By David A. Lieb, File)

(St. Louis) (AP) – Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich is dead in what police are describing as an “apparent suicide” at his suburban St. Louis home.

The shooting occurred just minutes after Schweich had called The Associated Press to invite a reporter to his home for an afternoon interview.

Schweich said he wanted to go public with accusations that the Missouri Republican Party chairman had made anti-Semitic remarks about him. The GOP chairman denied the accusations Thursday.

Clayton police say paramedics responded to an emergency call at 9:48 a.m. and Schweich was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead from a single gunshot wound.

The 54-year-old Schweich had been auditor since 2011 and had recently announced his candidacy for governor in 2016.

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Reaction from federal and state politicians from Missouri about Thursday’s death of Missouri State Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican candidate for governor:

“I join all Missourians in mourning the passing of State Auditor Tom Schweich, a brilliant, devoted and accomplished public servant who dedicated his career to making Missouri and the world a better place. From his courageous work to combat the illegal drug trade abroad in Afghanistan to his tireless efforts to protect the interests of taxpayers here in Missouri, Tom Schweich’s exceptional intellect and unwavering dedication to public service left a legacy that will endure for many years to come. The first lady and I send our most heartfelt condolences to Tom’s wife, Kathy, and two children, Emilie and Thomas Jr.”

- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Democrat.

“I am very sad, and hurt so much for Tom Schweich’s family. He was a good man, and a dedicated public servant, who served our country in so many capacities with distinction and honor. Hug those you love.”

- U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat.

“Tom was very smart, very capable, outstanding at his job, and a good friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kathy, their children, and the rest of Tom’s friends and family as they deal with this tragic loss.”

- U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican.

“I am in utter shock at the news of Tom Schweich’s tragic passing. Tom will be remembered as a tenacious, energetic, effective elected official who worked tirelessly on behalf of the citizens of this state and this nation. I ask all Missourians to join me in praying for Tom’s family.”

- John Hancock, Missouri Republican Party chairman.

“The death of Auditor Tom Schweich is devastating news for his family and all Missourians. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schweich family during this tragic time.”

- Roy Temple, Missouri Democratic Party chairman.

“Today, Missouri lost a man who was a true public servant through and through. Tom Schweich, a fifth-generation Missourian, is someone who would fight day and night to better our great state. Tom will always be remembered as a true conservative and a loving and devoted father and husband. He will be deeply missed by his colleagues, and friends, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this difficult time.”

-U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, Missouri Republican.

“I am shocked and saddened to hear the tragic news about Tom Schweich. Tom was a good man and dedicated public servant. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Schweich family and all those Tom has touched over his decades of service to his state and country. May God bless Tom Schweich and his wife, Kathy, and children, Emilie and Thomas Jr?.”

-U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, Missouri Republican.

“Tom Schweich was a lifelong public servant for our state and country. I am deeply saddened by his sudden loss, and extend my heartfelt sympathy to his family. I ask all Missourians to keep his family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

- Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, Democrat.

“It is with a heavy heart that I send my thoughts and prayers to the Schweich family during this difficult time. Tom served his state and country admirably, and fought strongly for his values. With his passing, Missouri has lost a devoted public servant. He will be missed.”

- Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, Democrat.

by Marie French, AP

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri’s public schools and community colleges would receive larger funding increases than recommended by Gov. Jay Nixon, under a budget plan presented Wednesday to a House committee.

However, it would scrap Nixon’s recommendation to give a performance-based funding increase to public universities.

The House Budget Committee still could amend the fiscal 2016 spending plan, which also must pass through the full House and Senate before going to the governor’s desk.

Nixon in January proposed a $50 million increase in basic aid distributed through the state’s public school funding formula, on top of the more than $3.1 billion schools are getting this year. The House Budget Committee proposal would provide a $70 million increase.

Ronald Lankford, deputy commissioner for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the House committee’s proposal would be enough to ensure that no school district loses money when the funding formula is calculated.

Under the governor’s proposed increase, “we would’ve had a number of school districts … that would’ve seen a loss,” he said.

Even with the additional funding in the committee’s plan, the state budget still would fall several hundred million dollars short of the amount needed to fully fund the school formula.

Education groups have expressed concerns that some school districts could have to make cuts if there is not enough of an increase to the state’s basic aid because of a new law prohibiting the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from prorating funding for certain districts when the state doesn’t fully fund the school formula – meaning that other districts would bear more of the burden.

The House Budget Committee proposal has a smaller increase for higher education institutions than the $12 million recommended by Nixon. The governor wanted to distribute that increase primarily based on a performance formula to both community colleges and four-year universities.

Under the governor’s proposal, community colleges would’ve gotten about $2 million more than last year while four-year institutions would’ve gotten about $10 million more. The House Budget Committee plan includes no additional performance-based funding but adds about $6 million in equity funding for community colleges. There would be no increases or cuts to four-year institutions.

Officials at four-year universities expressed confidence that increases would be added for the coming fiscal year later in the budget process.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Missouri State University President Clifton Smart said. “We’re confident that there will be a significant increase for higher education by the time it gets to the governor’s desk.”

John Fougere, a spokesman for the University of Missouri System, said in an emailed statement that the system is working with lawmakers “to ensure we receive the funding and resources necessary to meet our mission as the state’s only public land-grant higher education institution.”

by Summer Ballentine, AP

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Two proposals aimed at addressing concerns with Missouri’s student transfer law gained initial approval from the state House and Senate on Tuesday, a major step toward enacting a solution that could relieve some of the financial hardships struggling districts now face.

The current transfer law allows students in failing districts to switch schools at the expense of their home district, which has meant financial hardships for some schools when students flock elsewhere.

At the heart of the proposals is a measure that would allow students to instead move to better-performing buildings within their district, which might rank well by comparison.

Lawmakers say that would keep money within a school district, prevent costly expenses for busing students to classes and keep students close to home.

If there’s no space for students to transfer to buildings within their home district, or there are no accredited schools in the district, the House and Senate bills give students expanded options to transfer to charter and virtual schools.

Rep. Mike Lair, a Chillicothe Republican, called the House version a “groundbreaking” piece of legislation. That measure passed 112-44 among representatives.

“For decades, we have dealt with student transfer,” Lair said.

He said the legislation addresses the current law “so the sending school is not bankrupt from the tuition and the receiving district is not overwhelmed.”

The measures are the result of months of discussions with Gov. Jay Nixon, who last year cited concerns with an option for students to transfer to private, nonreligious schools when he vetoed that legislation.

But lawmakers said they’re hopeful things will be different this year.

Both bills now face a second vote before they can switch chambers, where lawmakers will “start all over,” said Sen. David Pearce, a Warrensburg Republican who sponsored the Senate version, which passed by a voice vote.

Then the House and Senate will have to reconcile the two student transfer measures, which take different approaches to school accountability and a contested measure that would push traditional public schools to sell unused buildings.

Some senators and representatives raised concerns about the flurry of amendments added to each bill, which could threaten the proposals’ chances for approval with Nixon.

Still, Pearce and other lawmakers said hours of negotiations this year could finally mean success for the legislation.

“We can’t lose another generation,” Pearce said. “It’s all of our problem.”