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POT O' GOLD. The St. Pat's Day Parade and Celebration committee reports that the wearing of the green can result in some major sharing of the green this year. Awards for parade floats have increased to $500 for first place, $250 for second place and $100 for third place. To enter the parade, contact Pat Flanigan at Corner Printing, 865-6651. And besides larger prizes, the 1998 parade will offer another very special feature: the second annual appearance of Forest Lipscomb Sr. as parade marshal. Born on St. Patrick's Day in 1898, the former president of Lipscomb Grain and Seed Co. will celebrate his 100th birthday during this year's parade.

SINKING TO NEW LOWS. The Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations reports the state's December unemployment rate was 3.9 percent, the lowest rate for any December in the past 20 years. The Springfield metropolitan statistical area reported a low of 3 percent unemployment, which breaks down to 3.5 percent in Christian County, 2.8 percent in Greene County and 4 percent in Webster County. Unemployment during December in Stone and Taney counties was 9.4 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively. Retail trade posted the largest employment gain for the month 4,000 employees at the peak of the holiday retail period, while the biggest declines in employment were in construction down 5,300 jobs and amusement and recreation services down 1,700 jobs.

THE BIG Q. Quentin Wilson, of Columbia, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development and former president of Quentin Wilson & Associates Inc., has been named the new director of the Missouri Department of Revenue. Wilson replaces Janette Lohman, who resigned to pursue a career in the private sector, according to a press release from Gov. Mel Carnahan's office. Wilson holds a bachelor's degree from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and a master's degree from the School of Business and Administration at St. Louis University. Jim Callis has served as acting director of the department since Lohman's resignation.

PENNY BEER. Springfield Rep. Mike Schilling has introduced a bill that would raise more money for alcohol addiction prevention and treatment programs by adding a 1-cent charge to the cost of every bottle of beer, glass or wine or shot of booze consumed in the state, according to a news release from Schilling's office. The increase on a per-gallon basis would be from 6 cents to 16 cents for beer, from 36 cents to 60 cents for wine and from $2 to $3 for spirits. Schilling estimates this penny-a-drink impact fee would generate an additional $20 million annually for programs to mitigate the ravages of alcoholism in the state. The Missouri Department of Mental Health estimates that more than 5 percent of the state's population has drinking problems that translate into thousands of needless deaths, injuries and illnesses each year, and $2 billion in economic loss, Schilling's release stated.

POET'S CORNER

A survey from NFIB

Says that health care is raising its fees.

Up 15 percent more,

Stated one out of four,

And increasing at lunatic speed.

THEY'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER. Southwestern Bell has announced that customers have until March 5 to check their listings in the Southwestern Bell White Pages for accuracy. Any changes must be reported by the March 5 deadline in order to appear in the 1998 Springfield directory distributed in May, according to a Southwestern Bell press release. Tom Ybarmea, Southwestern Bell manager in charge of directory listings, reminded businesses and professional firms, as well as individuals, to check their current listings and report any changes. "This applies in particular to firms that list their associates individually, such as attorneys, physicians, real estate agents and accountants," Ybarmea said in the release.

SLICE OF NICE. The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), a project of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks, is asking the community to be involved in the beautification of Living Memorial Park by donating trees to be planted this spring to honor Springfield and Greene County veterans. Tree donations are being accepted now through March 20 and may be made in honor of an individual or in the name of a business or organization. A special memorial and dedication ceremony has been planned for 10 a.m. Arbor Day, April 3. Last year, six trees were planted, and a goal of 15 trees has been set for this year. For more information, call RSVP at 862-3595.

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