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(Jefferson City) – Ten law enforcement officers from across the state, included two from the Troop G Willow Springs Headquarters, will be awarded the Missouri Medal of Valor by Gov. Jay Nixon in a ceremony in the state Capitol on Thursday December 18.

The officers will receive the medal for extraordinary acts of bravery and heroism to save the lives of Missourians during 2013. Two of the recipients are from Troop G of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, headquartered in Willow Springs: Trooper Daniel J. Johnson and Trooper Jason W. Philpott.

The other recipients of the medals are: Deputy Michael C. Hoefle, of the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Department; Officer Brock E. Kelley, of the Independence Police Department; Deputy Justin G. Wooten, of the Scott County Sheriff’s Department; Officer Kyle Weiss, of the Pevely Police Department; Deputy Michael T. Toombs and Deputy Nina M. Osia of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, and Officer Jay Brad King and Officer Jason Sederwall, of the Jefferson City Police Department.

(Willow Springs) – The Willow Springs City Council will be holding a regular session council meeting on Wednesday, December 17, at 6PM at the Willow Springs City Hall.

On the agenda for existing business is the 2015 Budget Approval Bill Number 07-14 to become Resolution Number 14-07.

In new business the council will look to approve bills concerning the 2015 library contract, the 2015 YMCA contract, and the 2015 rural fire contract. The council will also discuss the possibility of a city limit extension, having City Hall closed the day after Christmas, and the destruction of records.

(West Plains) – The next prequalification for the Ozarks Food Harvest Mobile Food Pantry will be from 4-5:45 PM Wednesday, January 7, at the West Plains Public Library Community Room, 750 W. Broadway.

Those eligible to apply for this assistance include area families with children ages birth through 18 who live within Howell County. Students enrolled at Missouri State University-West Plains and the South Central Career Center also are eligible, provided they meet income guidelines. Missouri State students must present their student identification cards in person, as well as a current class schedule; they may not send them with a family member. Families will receive only one voucher per family.

Those who apply should bring a photo ID, proof of income, proof of Howell County residency, names and ages of children, and a telephone number to the prequalification. Proof of Howell County residency does not apply to Missouri State-West Plains or South Central Career Center students.

For more information about the Ozarks Food Harvest Mobile Food Pantry project, or if you are interested in volunteering or donating, contact officials at the American Red Cross office in West Plains at 417-257-0018.

(Gainesville) – A Gainesville resident suffered moderate injuries after a one-vehicle accident Tuesday evening.

A report from Troop G of the Highway Patrol states that 32-year-old Tonya Burkepile was injured after the vehicle she was driving ran off-road and hit a bluff.

Burkepile was taken from the scene of the 5:50 PM accident to Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains.

The report states the accident happened a mile east of Gainesville on Hillside Drive.

(Jefferson City)- The Joint Committee on Government Accountability recently held its first hearing. The panel’s job is to look into alleged inefficiencies, fraud and misconduct in state government, in this case, related to the state’s role following a police shooting and subsequent grand jury decision in Ferguson.

Senator Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, points out that the group has been in existence for nearly a decade, but has never been activated:

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Senator Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, says the response to the protest there comes down to the decisions made by the Executive Branch:

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By statute the panel can meet four times next year, and have a final report issued to the full legislature no later than January 15, 2016.

(West Plains) – Several offices at Missouri State University-West Plains will offer extended hours in January to accommodate students with last minute business for the 2015 spring semester. Below is a list of dates, offices that will be open on those dates, and hours of operation:

On January 5-8, from 8AM-6PM academic affairs, admissions, Advisement and Academic Coaching Center for Empowering Student Success (AACCESS), the business office, Drago College Store, financial aid, registration and records, student services, the Veterans Center.

January 10, 9AM-12PM admissions, AACCESS, the business office, Drago College Store, financial aid, registration and records, the veterans center.

January 12, 7:30AM-6PM – admissions, AACCESS, the business office, Drago College Store, financial aid, registration and records, the veterans center. Academic affairs and student services offices will be open 8AM-6PM

January 13-15, 8AM-6PM – academic affairs, admissions, AACCESS, the business office, Drago College Store, financial aid, registration and records, student services, the Veterans Center. All offices will be open regular hours, 8AM-5PM Friday, January 9.

The Garnett Library will be open from 8AM-6PM January 5-9, 9AM-12PM January 10, and 7:30AM-10PM. January 12. On January 13The library will resume its normal semester hours 8AM-10PM Mondays through Thursdays, 8AM-6PM Fridays, 1-5PM Saturdays, and 1-9PM Sundays.

University officials said these special extended office hours will be a good time for students to purchase text books and school supplies, check on financial aid matters, get another copy of their class schedule, visit with advisers, and finalize any other last minute paperwork for the spring semester. Officials remind the last day to register for classes is January 11. Classes begin January 12.

For more information about spring classes or how to enroll, contact the Missouri State University-West Plains admissions office at 417-255-7955 or visit the website at www.wp.missouristate.edu.

(West Plains) – AmVets Post 98’s Ladies Auxiliary will host their annual Christmas for Area Kids Enjoyment (C.A.K.E.) Children’s Christmas Party this Saturday morning, December 20. Santa will be there to take photos with the children in attendance.

Toys and a food basket will be given to each family selected from their list of those in need. This year’s event will benefit 30+ families, including more than 60 children, within the West Plains and Howell County community. This event is not open to the public, the families who are to take part in this event have already been selected by Post 98 officials.

The AMVETS Riders Chapter and Ladies Auxiliary of Post 98 would like to thank everyone who made donations at the Southern Hill Shopping Center during their two recent C.A.K.E. Toy Drive and Fundraiser events on November 29, and December 6.

Thanks to the generosity from the community this year’s event raised approximately $1800, between cash donations and the estimated value of toys received, to aid in supporting their C.A.K.E. Children’s Christmas Party. Because of the level of support received from the community, this year’s event was the best toy drive and fundraiser since AMVETS Post 98 added it to their annual program of events.

(Thayer) – The Repertory Theater of the Ozarks will hold its annual Christmas Party and Show starting at 5:30PM this Friday, December 19, at the Thayer Fun and Friends Center located on the corner of Front St. and Chestnut in downtown Thayer, Mo.

Admission is by donation and is open to the public. All former RTO members and friends are also invited as RTO lets its hair down to sing their favorite Christmas songs, Broadway songs and western and pop.

RTO singing stars George R. Seaberry III, Janie Crews, Mariann Hyslop, Phyllis Simpson, Dennis Hobbs, J.W. Brewer, and Howard Elliott will be on hand for the fun

Join in with RTO singers; there will be an open mike for singers, bands and anyone who wants to join in the fun.

Free Christmas dessert, pies, cakes and cookies will be served. Also, beverages will be available. For more information, contact Caroll Lucas at 870-937-4235 or Mariann Hyslop at 417-274-0758.

(West Plains) – The Howell Valley R-1 School Board of Education will be meeting for a regular session meeting on Thursday, December 18, at 6PM in the Technology Building.

Items on the agenda include the review of the cash report, the cash journal, the general ledger and bank reconciliation; as well as the approval of the payment of bills.

The board will be looking to discuss and possibly approve a revised 2014-2015 budget, approve their updated polices and regulations, appoint a District Compliance Officer, and set the time and date for the next board meeting in January.

by David A. Lieb, AP

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Missouri higher education officials are backing off an attempt to make scholarships available to students at an online university, after the proposal drew opposition from some traditional institutions and sparked plans for a legislative hearing.

A joint House and Senate panel had been scheduled to meet Wednesday to consider blocking a proposed rule change for scholarship eligibility that would have redefined what it means for an institution to be “located in Missouri.” The intent was to make Access Missouri scholarships available to students at Western Governors University-Missouri, an online-only school.

But the hearing was canceled Tuesday after the Department of Higher Education withdrew the proposed rule change. A memo from the department to the legislative committee said the agency wants to “provide additional time to discuss the issues further with interested parties.”

Gov. Jay Nixon had directed the agency to ensure WGU-Missouri students could receive state financial aid when he signed an executive order in February 2013 establishing a Missouri branch of the online university, which is based in Salt Lake City.

The rule change was opposed by the Independent Colleges and University of Missouri, a collection of 21 private institutions. That group contends that any scholarship changes should require passage of a law, not merely a rule by a state agency. It also has raised concerns that other out-of-state institutions could use of the scholarships, thus expanding the pool of eligible recipients and ultimately resulting in a smaller amount of aid available for each student.

The decision to drop the proposed rule marked an abrupt change for department officials.

The independent colleges group had sent the department a letter outlining its concerns in June. As recently as Dec. 10, the agency’s deputy commissioner, Leroy Wade, had sent a letter to the legislative panel defending the proposed rule change and dismissing the objections raised against it.

The Associated Press published an article about the proposed rule change over the weekend. The memo withdrawing the rule was dated Monday.

“We’ve decided that rather than go forward with this – if there are these level of questions – we’re better to take the time to talk to them and see what kind of compromise position we can meet,” Wade said in an interview Tuesday.

If the department later decides to pursue the rule change again, it will have to start from scratch. That process can take six months or more.

“We’re still optimistic that there will come a point where we’re able to have our students access those funds – it’s just a matter of time,” said Angie Besendorfer, the chancellor at WGU-Missouri.

Students at the online university are not currently eligible for state scholarships because WGU-Missouri is not considered to be located in Missouri. Under the proposed rule change, an accredited institution whose main campus is elsewhere could have qualified if it had a building in Missouri, employed at least 25 Missouri residents, enrolled at least 750 Missouri students, had a Missouri-based oversight board and agreed to supply data to state officials. All of those criteria would have been met by WGU-Missouri, Besendorfer said.