Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Calendar of Events - January

Friday, January 1
21st Annual New Year’s Day KATY Trail Ride
11 a.m.
Defiance, MO
Sponsored by Trailnet. An enthusiastic group of bicyclists have started each New Year with a bike ride on the KATY Trail. Join them this year for the 21st Annual New Year’s Day KATY Trail Ride. The group will leave from the KATY Trailhead in Defiance at 11:00 am and ride to Augusta (7 miles). They will stop for lunch upon their return to Defiance, depending on restaurant availability. Please dress in layers and wear a helmet.

Sunday, January 3
St. Louis’ Best Bridal Show
St. Charles Convention Center
Noon-4 p.m.
The bridal fashion show features elegant and popular wedding dresses, gifts, appetizers, drinks, music and wedding planners.
For more information, go to http://shows.stlouisbestbridal.com/ or call 314-744-5777

Saturday, January 9-Sunday, January 31
Eagle Days
Various locations
Events include live eagle programs, activities, exhibits, video, guides with spotting scopes and refreshments.
For details go to the Missouri Department of Conservation and download the Eagle Days brochure, or call 573/751-4115 ext. 3289

Saturday, January 9-10
Snowflake Making
The Magic House, Kirkwood, MO
Saturday, 10:00-5:00 Workshop
Sunday, 11:30-5:00 Workshop
Let it snow with artist Marion Nichols as she shares the unique art of cutting paper into intricate snowflakes. Join the blizzard of activity in the museum’s Expericenter to discover how to snip fantastic flakes of your own designs. A former preschool art teacher, Marion Nichols is renowned for transforming ordinary sheets of paper into delicate snowflake patterns, and is the author of several books on the subject.
Info at the Magic House or call 314-822-8900

Friday, January 15-Sunday, January 17
St. Charles Boat Show, Sale and Fisherman’s Expo
St. Charles Convention Center
Friday, 1-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Boat dealers showcase their new, non-current and pre-owned boats, plus all things fishing, including tackle, rods, reels, boating accessories. Family fun for young anglers, seminars and speakers, and boating safety by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Regular Admission - $6.00 / Ages 6-15 $3.00. 5 & Under Free
On Friday, seniors age 60 and above admitted for $3.50
Info at http://www.letsgoshows.com/

Saturday January 23
Winter Wildlife Tracking-Learn from the experts
St. Charles Park District
Pottawatomie Community Center, 8 North Ave.
9 a.m.-noon
You’ll never look at “bare” ground again after this tracking class taught by top experts in the field. Learn how to interpret tracks, tail patterns and scat to identify wildlife. Begin with an interactive indoor class with overview of local fauna and tracking techniques, the outdoors to practice what you’ve learned.
Ages 18 and over. To register, call 630-513-6200.

Saturday, January 30
Fete De Glace (Festival of Ice)
100-200 block of North Main
Watch professional ice carvers bring the art to life in a competition using chain saws, power grinders, sanders, cold chisels, hand saws, and irons from 10am-3pm. This competition is judged and juried by the crowd. Coffee and hot chocolate will be available and nearby fire pits to warm up.

January 31-February 28
The Big Read National Endowment for the Arts
The Big Read is designed to revitalize the role of reading in American public culture.
Foundry Art Centre, 520 N. Main Street
The book chosen for participation is The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. The Foundry Art Centre and the St. Charles Community College Library sponsor the Big Read in St. Charles City/County and bring the community the power of literature.
For more info call 636-255-0270

Friday, December 18, 2009

$35 million economic development package passed at MHDC

As Chair of the Missouri Housing Development Commission, I am very excited to announce that moments ago we passed a $35 million economic development initiative. This initiative, first unveiled by Governor Jay Nixon and myself on November 24, will provide property tax relief to thousands of qualified middle- and low-income Missouri homebuyers, create and protect potentially thousands of good-paying jobs and help improve energy-efficiency in Missouri housing.

The $35 million package was approved at today's MHDC meeting, which was webcast live for the first time ever in an effort to bring increased transparency to the housing agency. The package provides:

1. $15 million to pay the first year of property taxes for qualified homebuyers who purchase a new or existing home after January 1, 2010. This has the opportunity to help between 9,000 and 11,000 Missouri families making less than $100,000 a year.
2. $15 million to finance and begin construction on affordable multi-family housing. This will create and save thousands of jobs at a time when Missouri unemployment is over 9% and allow us to continue to make quality affordable housing available to all Missourians.
3. $5 million in assistance to qualified homebuyers to help with down payments and closing costs. This helps potential homebuyers overcome the obstacle of coming up with enough cash for a down payment and closing costs. MHDC has been a national leader on this front.
4. Additional assistance to homebuyers who purchase an energy-efficient home or purchase energy-saving appliances. This is an opportunity to raise energy-efficiency standards in Missouri, making a positive impact on both the economy and the environment. It's a win-win.

This economic development package provides property tax relief to thousands of Missourians at a crucial time in our economy without spending Missouri tax dollars. This will be paid for entirely out of MHDC's reserve fund and federal recovery funds already in our possession. This comes in addition to more than $100 million in recovery funds and more than $19 million in reserves already allocated to boost Missouri's economy and put Missourians back to work.
My goal as Chair is to ensure MHDC is playing a pivotal role in Missouri's economic recovery and I believe we are doing that. The agency already offers competitive interest rates on home loans for qualified borrowers and a cash assistance loan plan for first-time homebuyers to help with down payments and closing costs. MHDC has also been a national leader in allowing Missourians to use the $8,000 federal first-time homebuyer tax credit up front for a down payment or closing costs. This program has been a success and will continue until at least April of 2010.

At a time when economic resources are scarce, it is important for you to know that I am constantly looking for new and innovative ways to get our economy moving again as well as ways to better marshal the tools and resources that are available.

One of those tools is the Missouri Linked Deposit Program, which provides low-interest loans to qualified small businesses and family farms. On November 23, I announced the largest-ever small business loan issued through the program. A small agricultural company in Marshall qualified for a $3.4 million loan, which will save the business more than $300,000 over five years compared to the cost of a regular loan. In addition, the loan will allow the company to add jobs and expand its customer base.

Thanks to changes made earlier this year to the Missouri Linked Deposit Program through my Invest in Missouri legislation, I am able to issue these kinds of loans to more small businesses with less turnaround time, allowing them to receive much-needed capital quickly.
Again, this costs Missouri taxpayers nothing. The Missouri Linked Deposit Program allows us to invest right here in Missouri to help small businesses that need it the most and who are playing a pivotal role in our economic recovery.

We have about $200 million in loans already out to small business throughout Missouri and we still have another $520 million available. To find out more about the Missouri Linked Deposit Program, click here.


Clint Zweifel
Missouri State Treasurer

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Buying a home in Missouri in 2010 has incentives

A proposal before the Missouri Housing Development Commission would credit up to $1,250 in property taxes for qualified buyers.

Buying a home in Missouri in 2010 looks to include even more incentives for people to enter the housing market. The Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC) is considering a proposal to provide up to $1,250 in property tax breaks for qualified buyers. This, on top of the extended first-time buyer $8,000 tax credit and $6,500 for repeat buyers, sets up next year as one of economic stimulation for Missouri.

The property tax break is supported by Gov. Jay Nixon and State Treasurer Clint Zweifel, the MHDC chairperson. This $15 million proposal would be funded from the Commission’s reserve fund. An estimated 9,000-11,000 households could benefit. Show your environmentally friendly side and the commission will provide an extra $500 if the house is energy-efficient or if the buyer can begin energy efficient steps within 60 days of closing. This perk includes improvements like insulation, energy star rated appliances, efficient water heaters and windows.

Income limits do apply, ranging from $58,300 to $98,560.

The big day is Friday, December 18, when commission members vote on the proposal. Because of all these incentives, those thinking about buying a home next year need to set up a planning schedule and begin sprucing up your house for sale. The first step is to analyze your finances, work on getting as big a down payment as possible, and check that credit score. There may be reports on your score that are wrong or fraudulent, reducing your score and the size of loan. By checking now you’ll avoid problems when you are ready to buy.

And, investigate the MHDC to see if you qualify for more assistance. The Commission administers any number of housing programs, from purchasing a home with a First Place loan, assistance for veterans, buying property in disaster areas and home repair grants. Help is out there for homebuyers to realize property ownership.

Written by Myra Vandersall

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Light Display

Holiday light displays make the season bright and glitzy
St. Charles County is one of the most lighted up communities during the holidays. Add the traditional lights in St. Louis, and families can see stars every evening. Here are a few to enjoy.

Celebration of Lights, Fort Zumwalt Park
Through December 30 (closed December 24 and 25)
This drive-through holiday light display held at Fort Zumwalt Park. Each scene is designed and funded by local organizations, churches and businesses. Started in 1991, the event attracts more than 8,000 vehicles each year and more than 5,000 individuals on walk-through night.
Sunday, Tuesday - Thursday 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 6:30 - 10:00 p.m.
$9/ vehicle - $15/large (15 passenger) van - $1 per person/ bus ($25 min.)
Tuesdays - $7 for cars, vans and non-commercial vehicles
$1 off any regular admission with canned food or toy donation (not valid on Tuesdays)
Closed to vehicle traffic on Mondays for train rides by advance reservation only To make a train reservation, call 636-379-5502.

Carriage rides are available too with advanced reservations. Call Carousel Farms and Carriage Company at 636-390-4403.

Sleigh rides are another way of seeing the lights. Reservations are a must. Call 636-379-5502.

After enjoying the Celebration of Lights, save your program! Presenting your program at participating O'Fallon businesses qualifies you for great discounts. For detailed information, go the Celebration of Lights website.

Holiday Night Lights
Rotary Park, Foristell
Through December 27
6:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Price: $8 per car or $1 per person per bus or van over 7 people
The City of Wentzville Parks & Recreation Department will present the 13th Annual Holiday Night Lights at Rotary Park. This one-mile drive-through display features more that 36 themed lighted displays and 500,000 lights. For detailed information go to the City of Wentzville’s website or call 636-332-9236.

Christmas Wonderland
Rock Spring Park on College Avenue, off Washington Avenue
Through December 27
Monday-Friday, 6-9 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday, 5-9 p.m.
Price-$7 for cars and small vans
$1 per person for 10+ passenger vehicles
Hear the sleigh bells jingle and see three million lights twinkle amongst a beautiful backdrop at Rock Spring Park's Christmas Wonderland. Visitors can turn off their headlights and let the holiday displays carry them through the magical scene. Or, make the night even more memorable with a horse drawn carriage ride through the park. Carriage rides are first-come, first-served on Saturdays and Sundays. Other evenings may be possible upon request. For carriage ride reservations, call Greatting Horse Farm at 618-458-6986.
For more information about the event, call 866-465-7890 or go to visitalton.com.

St. Louis County
Winter Wonderland
Tilles Park
9551 Litzsinger Road, St. Louis
Price-$9.00 Family vehicle; $10.00 Limousine; $30.00 Commercial transport van; $75.00 tour bus
Through January 3 (Closed Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve)
5:30-9:30 p.m.
Saturdays are closed to vehicular traffic and reserved for carriage rides.
St. Louis County Parks is celebrating our 24th year of Winter Wonderland! Winter Wonderland is created and designed by St. Louis County Parks employees. We hope you enjoy your drive through Winter Wonderland.

Horse drawn carriage rides are available every night except Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Advanced reservations are required for all carriage rides and ticket prices vary depending on type of carriage and number in party.
Purchase tickets online at MetroTix.

St. Louis
Wild Lights: St. Louis Zoo in Forest Park
December 11-13, 18-23, 26-30
5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Price-$4 for Zoo Friends members (no passes)
$5 for general public
Free for children under two
Stroll through the Saint Louis Zoo's enchanting holiday wonderland and enjoy hundreds of thousands of colorful lights, animated light displays and seasonal sounds, including penguins in paradise, flamingo lagoon and butterfly garden, shooting stars and a gingerbread village. For more information, go to stlzoo.org or call 314-781-0900.

St. Louis City
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Christmas Lights Display

Through January 2
Location: Anheuser-Busch Brewery
After sunset
The display features over 800,000 lights that adorn a magnificent tree, the Bevo Plant, Pestalozzi Street and surrounding landscape of the nation's largest brewery. Light-tour lovers can drive or stroll on Broadway, Lynch, Arsenal, and 12th to admire the spectacular sparkle of the Christmas spirit.
For more information call: 314-577-2000

Do you know of a Light Display in the area? Please share in our comment box!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stop Missouri Double Taxation on real estate and say Yes to a new constitutional amendment and log on to YesToSaveHomes.com.

Let’s stop Missouri politicians from penalizing homeowners and buyers

Missouri is one of 13 states that does not levy a transfer tax on home sales, and a coalition of property owners, businesses and the Missouri Association of REALTORS™ want to keep it that way.

The group sees transfer taxes as double taxation because Missourians already pay property taxes on real estate. A petition drive and a website have been created to help homeowners and potential buyers reach lawmakers who have the power to levy such a tax.

To place a state constitutional amendment on the November 2010 ballot to prohibit Missouri lawmakers from passing the tax initiative, the group needs more than 157,000 valid signatures. To make voters more aware of this issue, a new website, www.YesToSaveHomes.com is now online to help consumers learn more about the tax, calculate the tax based on the home’s sale price, and get involved.

Here’s the simple and straightforward proposal: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to prevent the state, counties and other political subdivisions from imposing any new tax, including a sales tax, on the sale or transfer of homes or any other real estate?”

As an example, here’s a calculation on a St. Charles County home sale. The home sold for $150,000 and at the St. Charles County taxation rate of 7.0750%, the amount would be an additional $10,612.50.* Jane Mendenhall, president-elect of the Missouri Association of Realtors, believes the transfer tax places undue stress on low-income Missourians who typically spend a larger percentage of income on their home.

Add the mix of Missourians who have lost their jobs, had pay cuts and have been forced to sell their homes or experienced a drop in property values, and the transfer tax just isn’t good for the recovering Missouri economy.

Legislators are looking around to fine new sources of revenue. The transfer tax is one of those sources politicians are eyeing. With the help of voters and homebuyers, the transfer tax will not be an additional burden on Missouri residents.

* This number is based on area percentages.

Written by Myra Vandersall

Monday, December 7, 2009

Your holiday cheer doesen't have to go up in smoke

Careful preparations and common sense will make this season a fire-free, happy holiday for your family.

Keeping your family safe during the holidays is top priority so that all can enjoy the lights, the glitter and the sights of the season. Seasonal fires claim more than 400 lives, 1,650 injured and more than $990 million in property damage.

Here are some simple tips that don’t take much time but will make your family fun last.

  • Make a plan. You should do this anyway, so sit down as a family and discuss who is in charge of what should you have to evacuate the house. Using a floor plan, identify two ways out of each room and agree on a place to meet once you have evacuated. The National Fire Protection Association has a great floor plan to download that you can customize for your home.
  • Choose a tree. Choose a tree that is fresh and green. Branches should be hard to pull back and the needles will not shed. Test for a sticky trunk and always have the tree lot person make a fresh cut at the bottom of the trunk. Trees are very thirsty.
  • Water your tree. A tree will absorb as much as a gallon of water or more in the 24 hours after it is cut, and one or more quarts every day after. Maintaining a steady water level prevents the needles from drying out and dropping off and the boughs from drooping. Water will also keep the tree fragrant. Do not allow the water pan to empty or go below the tree base.
  • Let there be lights. Part of the Christmas tradition is all glitter and lights. Don’t try to skimp by with old, frayed light strings or broken sockets. Should these catch on fire, you’ll be spending more than you could ever believe. LED lights are in now and use 90% less electricity than regular Christmas lights, reducing your impact on the environment. Up front, these lights are more expensive but over a period of years, they more than pay for themselves.
  • Plug ‘em in. Overloading a wall outlet is not a good idea. Purchase some surge protectors and plug your strands of lights in there first, and the surge protector into the wall. Turn the lights off when you retire for the night.
  • Candle light. The glow of candle light makes the holiday warm, but candles should be attended at all times and not left burning if you leave the house. Fireplaces are the same, and refrain from burning wrapping paper in the fireplace. Sparks could ignite and fly on to flammable materials.
  • DO have a wonderful holiday season. With just a few precautions, your family will be safe, happy and warm.
Written by Myra Vandersall

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Calendar of Events

Ongoing through Saturday, December 26
St. Charles Christmas Traditions
Christmas gets that much better with the historic celebrations on Main Street. Shops open their doors with special holiday gift ideas, Victorian carolers roam the streets singing traditional songs of the season while the Legendary Christmas Characters tell of Christmas lore past. Ice skating at Frontier Park, carriage rides and Santas abound. For full schedule, go to the St. Charles Christmas website.

Friday, December 4
VFW Fish Fry
VFW Post 2866, 66 VFW Lane
3-8 p.m.
Tired of turkey? Try the catfish, walleye, crappie, cod, fried chicken and shrimp dinners at the VFW. Sandwiches are a reasonable $5.50 and plates go for $8.00.

Fridays, December 4 and 11
Augusta’s 26th Annual Christmas Candlelight Walk
5-10 p.m.
Tour this charming river town during the holiday season for a wide variety of food, wine, live music performances, shopping and holiday experiences. Augusta will be lighted with luminaries to show the way. View an old-fashioned cedar Christmas tree hung with antique ornaments, popcorn strings, gingerbread figures. The Ebenezer United Church of Christ hosts a Christmas carol sing-a-long from 7-9p.m. For more information, go to the Augusta Chamber of Commerce website.

Saturday, December 5
Las Posadas
6 p.m.
Begins on South Main Street and ends in Frontier Park
Beautiful re-enactment of the Spanish tradition of Las Posadas (the Inns) with Mary and Joseph looking for shelter as the proceed down South Main with thousands of visitors carrying luminaries and sing carols. The Christmas story is told in Frontier Park, the Christmas trees is lit and carols are sung around the Yule log bonfire.

Saturday, December 12
St. Charles West Warrior Bands 24th Annual Arts and Crafts Fair
St. Charles West High School Drive, 3601 Droste Rd.
150 crafters, homemade cookies, attendance prizes and concession stand

Friday, December 18–Sunday, December 20
Scrooge, The Stingiest Man In Town
7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. matinee Saturday and Sunday
Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building Theater, St. Charles Community College campus,
4601 Mid Rivers Mall Dr. Cottleville
The Young People’s Theatre of St. Charles Community College presents this traditional musical production of Christmas past, present and future. Area St. Charles County youth are highlighted in this production
$7 for general admission, $6 for students/seniors.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Candlelight Concert
6 pm - 8 pm
 First Missouri Capitol State Historic Site, 200-216 S. Main Street
"Papa and Jackie Wright" will narrate and perform "The History of Christmas Music" in this candlelight concert. This warm holiday show with marimbas, drums, and various instruments will leave you with the holiday spirit. Lit entirely by candles, the concert is held in the legislative chambers.
$6. Reservations are needed
For more information call 636-940-3322