Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Jonathan Ahl

Rolla Correspondent

Jonathan Ahl reports from the Rolla Bureau for St. Louis Public Radio. Before coming to St. Louis Public Radio in November of 2018, Jonathan was the General Manager for Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois. He previously was the News Director at Iowa Public Radio and before that at WCBU in Peoria, Illinois. Jonathan has also held reporting positions in central Illinois for public radio stations. Jonathan is originally from the Chicago area. He has a B.A. in Music Theory and Composition from Western Illinois University and an M.A. in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. He is an avid long distance runner, semi-professional saxophonist and die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.

Friday is the deadline for U.S.-China trade talks. If they fail and China's 25-percent tariff on soybeans goes into effect, Missouri farmers will feel the impact.
jasonippolito | Flickr

ROLLA — The economic downturn following the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. has hurt agriculture in the short term but is also providing opportunities for long-term gains.

Commodity prices are down again this month, following a trend that has been going on for more than five years. In addition, China’s promises to buy $36 billion in U.S. crops this year and $43 billion next year may not come to fruition.

Charles Baron, co-founder of Farmers Business Network, an online farm information and consulting service, said historically low interest rates are another outcome of the downturn, and that could help farmers.

The drive-thru triage area at Phelps Health Medical Center in Rolla is part of the hospital's preperation to handle increased patients becaue of coronavirus. 04-02-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — So far, there have not been any confirmed cases of coronavirus in Phelps County, but the hospital in Rolla is using the delay to make sure it's ready.

Phelps Health Medical Center is the largest hospital for more than 50 miles in every direction. And while COVID-19 cases are few in that region, they are preparing for its arrival in big numbers.

Phelps Health started expanding its capacity more than two weeks ago, with the creation of a triage center in a parking lot adjacent to the hospital. It’s made up of tents, portable buildings and a covered carport where patients can be assessed in their cars.

Maj. Gen. Donna Martin spoke on Facebook Live about the confirmed coronavirus case at Fort Leonard Wood 03-25-20 screenshot from Facebook
Facebook

FORT LEONARD WOOD — Maj. Gen. Donna Martin returned to Facebook on Wednesday in what was billed as a virtual town hall meeting to praise the procedures in place to keep the coronavirus in check.

The briefing came days after the first confirmed case of the virus at the installation in Missouri’s Ozarks that has tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians coming through every year.

Martin said the infected soldier was on leave in New York before the Department of Defense banned such travel. The soldier returned to base, followed protocol and reported for a medical check.

Eric Schneider sits at a computer wearing a mask prototype and working on revisions for the next version. March 23, 2020. JA 3-23-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8:10 p.m. March 25 with production continuing

Production of protective face masks at Missouri University of Science & Technology, which had been paused pending FDA approval, has resumed. They won’t be delivered to Phelps Health Medical Center until the FDA approves them. Missouri S&T and the hospital are pleased with the final design and are optimistic it will be approved.

The students, who are continuing to work around the clock, are also producing face shields, which do not require FDA approval.

Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

WAYNESVILLE — Using online services to help rural people in need isn’t new, but a domestic violence shelter has learned it takes more than that when internet access in safe spaces isn’t available.

That’s why Genesis, a domestic and sexual violence victim advocacy agency, is combining its online offerings with a roving staff member who travels to women in need.

“If they can just get to me at the disclosed location, I can set them up with therapy services through our therapists over the internet,” said Wendy Miller, the rural victim advocate for Genesis.

Missouri S&T professors Rex E. Gerald II and Jie Huang with the sensor they are developing that could help screen people for viruses like coronoavirus. Photo from Missouri S&T, provided March 2020
Tom Wagner | Missouri S&T

ROLLA — Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology are developing an electronic sensor that can detect viruses by analyzing someone’s breath. 

The technology could be used in the future to manage the spread of an epidemic like coronavirus. The prototype of the sensor is designed to be a first-level screening for viral diseases that affect the lungs. 

Maj. Gen. Donna Martin spoke at a virtual town hall meeting on Facebook to talk about Fort Leonard Wood's response to coronavirus (Facebook screen capture from 03-18-20)
Facebook

Maj. Gen. Donna Martin took to Facebook on Wednesday to hold a virtual town hall meeting on Fort Leonard Wood’s response to coronavirus concerns, and delivered a message of some things being exactly the same and some very different.

All troop training exercises and classes, including basic training, will continue. New recruits from all over the country will still come to the military installation in Missouri’s Ozarks to take the first steps toward becoming a soldier.

But service members and their families on base face significant restrictions in travel. All personal leave has been canceled, and travel is only allowed in military-approved scenarios where COVID-19 screening protocols are in effect.

Provided photo of Dale Martin from Missouri S&T, taken in 2017
Missouri S&T

ROLLA — The Rolla Regional Economic Commission’s new leader has no economic development experience, and his hiring marks a shift in the group’s focus.

Dale Martin was the head men’s basketball coach at Missouri University of Science and Technology for 22 years. He started as the executive director of RREC this month.

Carther Chance playing the French horn. His cerebral palsy limits the use of his right arm, which isn't needed for this insturment. 03-03-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Carter Chance has never let cerebral palsy stop him from doing what he wants, but a unique set of circumstances is threatening his ability to join the Rolla High School Marching Band next year.

One of the effects of the disorder is he has little strength in his right arm and almost no use of his right hand. When he wanted to join the band last year, there was an easy solution to that problem: the French horn.

“You use your left hand on the valves of a French horn to be able to play it, and then your right hand just goes in the bell, and all it does is sit there, and that works perfect for Carter,” said Mike Goldschmidt, band director at Rolla Junior High.

A CT scan of ovarian cancer
Wikimedia Commons

A study of more than 1,000 women in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa diagnosed with ovarian cancer showed those with the more lethal stage IV tended to come from rural areas.

The study published in the Journal of Rural Health shows rural women are two and half times as likely as their urban counterparts to be diagnosed when the disease is at its most severe stage.

Researchers are not sure why that’s the case.

Missouri S&T students in the campus Havener Center on Feb. 28, 2020, raising money for coronavirus supplies for a Chinese hospital.
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Missouri University of Science and Technology students from China are raising money to help their home country fight the new coronavirus, but so far they haven’t found a way to get money or supplies to China.

The school’s Chinese Scholars and Students Association started taking donations in the middle of last week and have already raised more than $4,000.

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri University of Science and Technology chose the state Capitol building to launch its yearlong 150th anniversary celebration, in part to get lawmakers' attention as it asks for more state funding.

More than 100 people gathered in the Capitol rotunda Tuesday morning to hear from university officials, students and lawmakers.

Missouri S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani told the crowd that the school, which started as Missouri School of Mines and was later called the University of Missouri-Rolla before taking its current name, has a proven track record.

The Sanvello app is available to all University of Missouri students at all of its campuses 02-21-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Stress, anxiety and depression can be part of the college experience for many students, so the University of Missouri System is hoping a mobile app can help them cope better and be healthy.

The university purchased the rights for students on the campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla to download and use the app called Sanvello. Normally it costs $8.95 a month. 

It has functions including self-assessments, guided meditations, breathing exercises and behavioral studies that are designed to help manage mental health issues.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt spoke in Rolla with rural health care providers about opioid addiction 02-21-2020
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — If Missouri receives money from its lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, rural health care providers want to make sure they get some of those dollars to support underfunded opioid addiction services.

The Your Community Cares Rural Health Coalition invited Attorney General Eric Schmitt and representatives from the U.S. Attorney's office in St. Louis to Rolla on Friday to talk about the programs and how they are underfunded.

Megan Setter (left) speaks during a roundtable discussion at Fort Leonard Wood on professional license reciprocity for military spouses.
Office of the Governor

Spouses of military members are used to moving every few years, and they often have to put their careers on hold when they need a professional license to work in their new state.

A proposal in Missouri’s Legislature would ease that problem by having the state honor professional licenses held by military spouses who are transferred from other states. 

“If we can do this to show our support for our military families and getting our military spouses jobs quickly and easily, that not only benefits that spouse, it benefits the whole family,” said state Rep. Steve Lynch, R-Waynesville.

Missouri needs more internet service producers to connect underground fiber networks to customers to increase high-speed internet access, a new FCC report says.
Dan Chace | Flickr

ROLLA — More than $60 million in grants and low-interest loans is headed to Missouri as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to increase broadband internet access in rural areas.

Six businesses are receiving the grants to install fiber optic internet lines that will bring high-speed service to areas that have little to no access.

Gascosage Electric Cooperative is one of those businesses. It provides electricity to rural areas of Camden, Maries, Miller, Phelps and Pulaski counties in south-central Missouri. This grant is part of its entry into the internet service provider market.

A sign announces the sudden closure of Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Boonville.
SEBASTIAN MARTINEZ VALDIVIA | KBIA

When Pinnacle Regional Hospital in Boonville closed recently, it became the seventh rural hospital to shut its doors in Missouri since 2010.

In that same time frame, Illinois had two rural hospitals go out of business. The National Rural Hospital Association blames the difference on lack of Medicaid expansion. 

The association reports there are nine factors that can lead to a rural hospital shutting down, and being in a state, like Missouri, that hasn't expanded Medicaid is No. 1.

Kaitlin Taylor from Senn-Thomas Middle School puts the finishing touches on her team's model city for the Future City Competition. 1-25-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Twenty teams of Missouri junior high students took a crack at solving a big problem: What will cities of the future look like as they try to address clean water shortages?

Future City is an annual competition challenging sixth through eighth graders to design and build a model of a city and present it to a group of judges. This year’s theme was “Clean Water: Tap Into Tomorrow.”

The teams gathered at Missouri University of Science and Technology over the past weekend to present their ideas and compete for a chance to represent the state at a national competition in Washington, D.C.

Katie Bartels and her emotional support cat Hank, who was certified as an ESA by a therapist, not an online service. 01-20-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

If you have a little bit of money and can answer a 10-question online survey, you can get an official-looking certificate stating that you need an emotional support animal. 

You don’t have to talk to anyone or go through an assessment.

Because it’s so easy to obtain the documentation and the laws on accommodations for emotional support animals are murky, some people are using the certification to get out of paying pet deposits and monthly fees to keep an animal in an apartment.

Advancements at Missouri S&T could make charging electric cars, like this Tesla at a charging station in Rolla, cheaper, faster and safer.
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — As more industries, including transportation, are looking to electricity to deliver more power, Missouri University of Science and Technology wants to help meet that demand.

The school is leading a research effort to develop the equipment needed to deliver voltages that are up to 100 times what are found in the average household outlet.

“The goal is to figure out how to deliver high voltage cheaply and safely,” said Mehdi Ferdowsi, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T.

One of the 30 seat regional jets that began serving the airport at Ft. Leonard Wood when Contour Airlines took over the service in Feburary 2019 01-08-19
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

FORT LEONARD WOOD — Passenger counts at the Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport were down from February through October of 2019 compared to the previous year.

That’s despite a new airline coming in and upgrading the departing planes from eight-seat propellor planes to 30-seat jets.

When Nashville-based Contour Airlines replaced Massachusetts-based Cape Air, local officials were confident it would improve and expand service. But it’s taking a bit longer than expected for that to come to fruition.

Friday is the deadline for U.S.-China trade talks. If they fail and China's 25-percent tariff on soybeans goes into effect, Missouri farmers will feel the impact.
jasonippolito | Flickr

The number of Missouri farmers who are pessimistic about the new year is double what it was at the same time in 2019, according to a new survey by the Missouri Farm Bureau. 

The poll of members showed that 14% of farmers have negative feelings about 2020, compared to 6% in 2019 and 3% in 2018.

A similar survey of farmers by Purdue University shows a comparable mood across the Midwest.

Chantae McMillan meets with supporters at a fundraiser at her hometown of Rolla 12-25-19
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Chantae McMillan came back to her hometown for the holidays, in part for some help as she looks to qualify for the Summer Games in Tokyo next year.

“Olympic athletes don’t get a paycheck,” McMillan said at a fundraiser at Public House Brewing Company in Rolla. “We rely upon sponsors. And I have always been able to rely on people in Rolla who have always helped me.”

Goats grazing in a pasture at Mark Twain National Forest infested with the invasive species Sericea 12-25-19
USDA Forest Service

ROLLA - Kudzu and other invasive plants are threatening parts of the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri’s Ozarks, and goats might be part of the solution.

In 2019, the National Forest Service started a pilot program to use small herds of goats in certain sections of the 1.5 million acre forest to clear out invasive plant species.

The new 144-mile segment of the Rock Island Trail would span from Windsor, Missouri, in the western part of the state to Beaufort in Franklin County.
MoBikeFed | Flickr

Utility company Ameren has come to an agreement with Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources to donate an old rail line for use as a recreational trail. 

The former Rock Island and Pacific Rail corridor owned by Ameren stretches 144 miles from Beaufort to Windsor and would complete a trail that would connect Kansas City to St. Louis. 

Industrial hemp plants like these can soon be grown legally in Missouri (12/15/19)
MIssouri Hemp Association

For the first time in more than 70 years, farmers in Missouri will be allowed to grow industrial hemp during the 2020 growing season.

But first they will need a permit from the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Those applications are online now, and the department will start processing them right after the first of the year.

Feral swine in Missouri cause damage to wildlife, plants, animals, natural habitat and farmland. 12-09-19
USDA

ROLLA — Hunters interested in taking any of the feral hogs that are doing significant damage in the Ozarks will have to do so in very limited windows.

The U.S. Forest Service announced on Saturday that hunting of feral hogs in Mark Twain National Forest will be limited to deer and turkey season and restricted to hunters holding permits.

A soldier at Fort Leonard Wood is tested for TBI using the experimental Brain Scope, part of research going on at the base and Phelps Health in Rolla. 12/5/19
Matthew Doellman | Phelps Health

Diagnosing traumatic brain injury faster so treatment can start right away is the focus of a $5 million research project centered at Fort Leonard Wood and nearby Phelps Health Hospital in Rolla.

Traumatic brain injury is a head injury from an external force that can do long-lasting damage to the brain. Phelps Health is a community hospital that serves a county of fewer than 50,000 people, but is conducting research that could revolutionize the way the Army treats everything from concussions to serious brain injury. 

Friday is the deadline for U.S.-China trade talks. If they fail and China's 25-percent tariff on soybeans goes into effect, Missouri farmers will feel the impact.
jasonippolito | Flickr

The trade war with China is nearly a year and a half old, and farmers say there is no end in sight.

Farmers in Missouri and Illinois will receive a second round of federal payments to make up for losses from the ongoing trade war with China. Tariffs have reduced the demand for U.S. agricultural products.

Blake Hurst, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said the farmers he is talking to are not optimistic there will be a resolution soon.

Kathy Ellis addresses a public forum on income inequality in Rolla (November 2019)
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA Kathy Ellis lost to Congressman Jason Smith last year by nearly 50 percentage points, but the Democrat from Festus is already gearing up for a rematch she thinks she can win.

Eillis has held a dozen town hall meetings throughout the 30 counties that make up Missouri’s 8th Congressional District in the southeast part of the state.

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