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Robot, tech expo returns to MAC

Organizers of the Robot and Technology Expo are gearing up for the seventh year of fun and learning for kids of all ages.

The expo will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 17 at Mineral Area College's Bob Sechrest Field House on the Park Hills campus.

Youth and their families have a chance to participate in robotic competitions, technology challenges and hands-on demonstrations. Anyone with an interest in technology is welcome to bring their family and explore the many offerings. There is no admission fee.

Once again, attendees will be able to observe VEX Robotics competitions for students in middle and high school. Students arrive at MAC each year to showcase their robot building and programming skills.

Ann Boes, event founder and director, also serves as director of the event's organizing group, 4-H Lab:Revolution.

Explaining that many technology-based workshops and exhibits are offered at no cost to the general public, she said, "We're excited to have some new quadcopters this year. People can come out and fly the quadcopters from the state 4-H office."

Boes also recommended experiencing the new Google Virtual Reality Experience for anyone wanting to add a little excitement to their life. In addition to the VEX robotics competition, there has also been a Robot Sumo Challenge added to this year's competitions.

This premier Mineral Area robotics and technology event has grown from a couple of robotic competitions and a few demonstrations into an event where a family can spend an entire day having fun.

For students who enjoy computer coding, there is a Scratch competition, as well as a Virtual NXT programming lab. There will also be plenty of hands-on activities for children as young as 3 years of age at the Lego and Robotix building areas.

Family members of all ages will find mind stimulating activities and demonstrations, as well, such as the Family and Friends Interactive Technology Challenge, Lego Build Competition, individual robot exhibitions, TED Talks mini-theater, 3D printing challenge, Arch Reactor Hackerspace, Robomo Robots and Zagros Robotics.

In past events, there have been as many as 48 teams from four states sign up for VEX, with the majority coming from Missouri. Competitors have to be flexible as every year the game changes. This year's game is called "In The Zone." The two teams place their robot in an arena where they complete a series of timed tasks that involves moving small plastic yellow cones to designated spots for various point values.

"Somebody attending the event for the first time may hear lots of cheering around the robot playing fields," Boes said. "All of the noise should not lead them to think that the expo is only about competition robots."

The robotics Education & Competition Foundation (RECF) is the non-profit organization that operates the competitions on behalf of VEX and other companies. More information is available at the RECF website.

Volunteer or sponsorship information may be obtained at or by emailing Samantha Scott at More event detail and information may be found at the event website:

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Maple Street cleanup underway

Work has begun to clean up and prepare for sale slightly more than 4 acres of county-owned land on Maple Street in Farmington previously used by the St. Francois County Road & Bridge Department.

Highway Superintendent Clay Copeland offered an update on the project during Tuesday’s St. Francois County Commissioners meeting.

“We have a crew working on Maple Street, so if anybody wants to look at the [Road and Bridge] building one more time...,” he said.

Associate Commissioner Gay Wilkinson, filling in as presiding commissioner in the absence of Harold Gallaher, said, “Maple Street, for anybody who doesn’t know, is the name for the former barn. It’s been reduced except for the large building itself. All the other out buildings have been taken down. Another big building will be taken down relatively soon.

“That will be the next phase where we remove and remediate the soil, so we can make it ready for sale — and that’s a big project in itself. We’re fortunate that our road and bridge guys have the equipment that they can do that rather than hire somebody to tear that down to make it safe for either residential or commercial — it will be safe for either one.”

Following last summer’s move of road and bridge to its new location on Woodlawn Drive, county commissioners voted for the county to take part in the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Brownfields/Voluntary Cleanup Program with plans to sell the land for future redevelopment.

According to the DNR, "Brownfields are sites where redevelopment and reuse is complicated by known or suspected contamination with hazardous substances. Typical brownfield sites include gas stations, dry cleaners, mills, production facilities, hospitals or even main street buildings with older hazardous building materials.”

The commissioners selected Smith & Company Engineers in October for the cleanup of the county's Maple Street facility through the Brownfield Voluntary Cleanup Program.

In other action, the commissioners held its annual bid opening. The bids were open and placed on a table for viewing by all bidders. No decisions were made during the meeting, but an announcement of accepted bids will be made at the commissioners’ March 13 meeting set for 10 a.m. on the third floor of the courthouse annex building in Farmington.

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Chamber learns about first aid

The Desloge Chamber of Commerce learned the importance of small businesses offering first aid training to their workers when a representative of Emergency And Safety Trainers (EAST) served as guest speaker at the civic organization's March meeting held at city hall.

According to EAST Director of Education James R. Fields, first aid training is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

"If you are a small business owner like us, you may never have given thought about training your employees in first aid and CPR just due the nature of your business," Fields said. "The fact of the matter is, OSHA requires just about all businesses to have at least one trained personnel on duty at all times."

Fields noted that not all companies who teach first aid training have the qualifications to do so.

"You may think you're saving money, but after they leave all you will have is a piece of paper saying you passed their course," he said. "It means absolutely nothing because their training doesn't meet OSHA guidelines. You'll have to pay the extra expense of having an authorized trainer come in to provide the training necessary to meet OSHA federal regulations.

"EAST is an authorized training center for the Emergency Care and Safety Institute, American Safety and Health Institute, and the National Safety Council," he said. "We are also an authorized provider for the American Heart Association courses. We ensure that all courses meet current national guidelines and taught by credentialed instructors at an affordable price."

Fields said EAST offers a complete line of American Heart Association courses, ECSI, ASHI, and National Safety Council courses.

"For EMS professionals seeking continuing education, we offer CEU courses through our Missouri Bureau of EMS accreditation," he said. "For child care providers, we offer professional development clock hours from our MOPD authorized instructors."

Providing the business spotlight for March was Parkland Health Mart Pharmacy, owned by Lisa Umfleet and Jeremy Leach. Locations are in Farmington, Desloge, Fredericktown and Ironton.

Chamber Board of Directors President Shelley Tracy announced that the recent Dr. Seuss-themed trivia night held at Stone Park had been successful.

"The chamber would like to thank everyone who came out and played a part in our trivia night," she said. "We had a great turnout with nine teams attending. We want to give a big thank you to Little Caesars for providing the pizza and Walmart for supplying beverages. Thanks also to everyone who donated to our silent auction and the businesses who donated our door prizes."

Tracy encouraged the members to attend the upcoming Social Media Marketing Workshop being held March 15. Call 573-431-3006 before the March 9 deadline.

The next chamber noon luncheon will take place April 3 at the El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant in Desloge.

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Council holds public hearing, regular session

The Farmington City Council will meet beginning at 6:30 p.m. today in council chambers, located at 110 W. Columbia St.

First on the tentative agenda for the council is a public hearing for an application by Robert Gierse for a historic property designation for 106 W. Columbia St. A first and second reading and council action on an ordinance for this designation is listed under legislative items on the tentative regular session agenda.

Also listed under legislative items is a second reading and council action on an amendment to the ordinance regarding school zone, amending to add a new definition of a school zone, as well as adding a section regarding the signage to indicate a zone as well as a new schedule of included zone areas.

One item listed under old business includes council action on a resolution for the city to enter into a contract with Redmond and Sons Excavation, as well as action on resolutions for an architectural preservation grant agreement for the property at 104 and 106 W. Columbia St., the appointment of members to serve on the Mineral Area Community Improvement District Board of Directors, a contract with Lead Belt Materials Co. Inc. for 2018 asphalt street improvements, a contract with Kingsland Concrete for new installation and removal and replacement of concrete curb, gutter and sidewalks, a lease agreement with Jeffery W. and Krista B. Bullock for property at 106 Aldergate and a resolution for the city to adopt the St. Francois County All-Hazard Mitigation plan.

The public hearing and regular session are open to the public.

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Caruthers defense seeks out-of-state testimony

An attorney representing the Bonne Terre man charged with the Nov. 2016 murder of an area businessman presented a motion to Circuit Court Judge Wendy Wexler Horn Wednesday, requesting authorities to complete a deposition of an out-of-state witness. 

Saying she saw no reason to deny the request, Judge Horn approved the motion.

At a Jan. 19 hearing before Judge Horn, Anthony Caruthers' defense had requested a continuance in the case citing three reasons, including a lack of evidence from the prosecution, a need to verify the mental competency of the accused and the need to issue an out-of-state subpoena for a witness in California.

The defense argued at that time that the Californian witness had been exchanged messages with the victim, Michael VanStavern, and could testify regarding the state of the victim's mind preceding the altercation at Red Cedar Lodge, which resulted in VanStavern's death.

During the Jan. 19 hearing, St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney Jerrod Mahurin had questioned the necessity of such a deposition, as he contended that the witness could introduce no substantial new evidence for the court, with the witness being in California before, during and after the commission of the crime.

Judge Horn granted a short continuance at the January hearing, saying while she wanted the trial to go ahead as scheduled, she also did not want to have to try the case over because the defenses' concerns were overlooked.

Originally scheduled for Feb. 8-9, the jury trial was rescheduled for April 23-24.

Less than a month before Caruthers' continuance was granted, Caruthers’ original attorney withdrew at his request and a new defense team took over.

Caruthers' co-defendant, Jeremy Reed entered an Alford plea to charges of second-degree burglary and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the crime. Reed allegedly went to the Red Cedar Lodge and helped Caruthers move VanStavern's body and subsequently went to the victim's Farmington apartment and took items for the purpose of pawning or selling them.

Reed would have faced a maximum of 11 years if found guilty of the charges, but was instead sentenced to eight years by Judge Horn in exchange for his plea.

In July, Caruthers refused a plea deal offered by the prosecution in exchange for a charge reduction from first-degree to second-degree murder. If he had accepted the deal, Caruthers would have faced life in prison with the possibility of parole for the murder charge and a combined 37 years in prison for the other various charges he faces.

The plea deal was offered to Caruthers during a hearing to consider the defense’s motion to suppress a video confession made by Caruthers at the St. Francois County Jail following his arrest, with his attorney contending that the confession was made after the accused had suffered a head injury and while he was under emotional duress. After viewing the complete video confession, Judge Horn overruled the motion to suppress the evidence.

Caruthers will face a jury trial April 23-24 for the charges of first-degree murder, armed criminal action, two counts of second-degree burglary, theft/stealing, two counts of tampering with a motor vehicle, tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution, resisting arrest and attempted escape from custody.