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RUMOR MILL. Persistent patter concerning the future of Columbia Hospitals in Springfield has Cox buying out the local operations of the besieged Columbia HCA. From both on high and the public relations department at Cox, the eerily similar spin statement is issued: "In the course of doing business it's customary for Cox to have discussions with other providers in the area." And, of course, it is contrary to Cox policy to discuss the progress or status of those discussions. Officials with Missouri's Department of Health said state approval is not required in hospital acquisitions, though application must be made to change the status of licenses and get square with the federal government for Medicare payments. No such paperwork has been filed with the state. Asked if inquiries about the process, preparatory to such a filing, had been made in regard to Columbia, one state employee said, "Let me just say no comment on that one."

INTERIM. Nature abhors a vacuum and an empty city job. Mary Lilly Smith is Springfield's interim economic development coordinator, filling the position formerly occupied by David Knight. Smith, a 15-year veteran city employee, will oversee the interdepartmental team for economic development. A release from the city said a permanent replacement for the spot will be sought "over the next several weeks." The change in the economic development position has prompted the city to reconfigure the role. "We are looking at creating an Interdepartmental Economic Development Assistance Team with the economic development coordinator as the team leader," said City Manager Tom Finnie. "We are looking at expanding responsibilities of key people in the Building Development Services and Planning and Development departments to oversee the development-assistance process in their departments." The changes are an effort to make economic development "everybody's job."

STEP UP. Metropolitan National Bank in Springfield is now designated a Preferred Lender by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Metropolitan's Lu Ann Hancock said the designation means the bank may now approve SBA loans internally and commit SBA funding in-house; applications need not be submitted to the SBA. Such a designation is made based on an institution's past high volume of SBA lending, a good track record on the quality of those loans and the qualifications of its staff. In 1997, Metropolitan approved 23 SBA loans for $3.5 million.

MEYER HALL. Southwest Baptist University March 24 named a men's dorm on its campus Meyer Hall. The name honors Ken and Jane Meyer, owners of radio stations KWTO and KTXR, among other broadcast properties. The Meyers gave endowment money for the building, and it is the second building at SBU to bear the Meyer name. Ken Meyer is a member of the university's board of regents.

VOTE TUESDAY. In addition to the school bond issue and school board members that Springfield voters will decide in Tuesday's election, Missourian's will pass judgment on two constitutional amendments. Both are on the ballot as a result of Missouri General Assembly action. Amendment No. 3 would allow Kansas City's board of education to keep its property tax levy at $4.95 per $100 of assessed valuation, where it was pegged by federal court order. When the court order is lifted, Kansas City's levy would revert to its pre-order $2.75. The amendment would affect only Kansas City and requires a simple majority for passage. Amendment No. 4 would allow school boards throughout the state to increase their indebtedness up to 15 percent of the value of taxable property in their districts. The cap on bonded indebtedness is now 10 percent. Districts would still be required to get voter approval for bond issues. The amendment requires a simple majority for passage.

SLICE OF NICE. The resource management class at SMSU in the consumer and family studies department has collected dozens of recipes for kids to make and eat and gathered them into a cookbook called "Dinosaur Brownies." The cost of each cookbook is $5, and the proceeds will benefit Ozarks Food Harvest. The cookbook will be available only until the end of April. To reserve your copy, call Elizabeth, at 865-3411, or Donalda, at 890-0275. For each dollar in its budget, Ozarks Food Harvest distributes $15 worth of donated food to hunger relief agencies throughout the Ozarks. Each cookbook sold will enable the food bank to get $75 worth of food to hungry children and their families.[[In-content Ad]]

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