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Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 - 8:30am
  • DOA Identified: The body found in car that had crashed down an Acton ravine was identified as a Palmdale man who had gone missing. The Signal
  • Citizen on Patrol: Citizen's arrest can be a very risky thing, but one local lady went that route when she saw a man appear to be abusing his dog. The Signal
  • A Voting Change for Santa Clarita: A judge upheld the legality of a switch to cumulative voting for Santa Clarita elections, which could signal big changes in coming years' City Council elections. KHTS
  • Thanks for the Hash Browns: "Before he died, I asked my dad what his biggest regret was. He said: Not being able to see each morning all the many people he called friends, after he left the Way Station. I also think all those friends feel the same way." Stanley Bronstrup, founder of that icon of Santa Clarita, died last week just shy of his 81st birthday. SCVHistory
  • Something Doesn't Smell Right: While staying in a Highway 126 RV park, Daryl Manzer woke in the dead of night and investigated an odor that certainly seemed to be coming from Chiquita Canyon Landfill. SCVNews
  • Teens Heading Toward Trial: The two SCV teens accused of making violent threats via social media are on track to go to trial soon. The Signal
  • Amgen Will Roll Back into SCV: The Amgen Tour of California bicycle race will again make a stop in the SCV when it hits the road next year. KHTS

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Monday, October 20th, 2014 - 10:00am
  • Signal Sides With City on S: "Let’s move forward and deal with more important issues." With that, The Signal's editorial board urges voters to vote "yes" on Measure S and bring electronic billboards into the SCV. The Signal
  • City Has Scaled Back Water Use: Some gallon numbers would be helpful, but nonetheless, 70 percent of the city's water usage is for landscaping. City officials say they have met the 20 percent cutback requirement. The Signal
  • No One Noticed Until Now: No word from officials on what "long-term" means, but it appears that a dead body found in a car that went off the road in Acton was "long-term" DOA. The Signal
  • Is Prop 1 the Solution?: "Not all the money is designated for bolstering water supplies. The second largest funding category sets aside $1.5 billion for ecosystems and watershed projects, while $395 million is available for flood management." What will be the cost of Prop 1 lessening California's water woes? Daily News
  • Assistance for the League: The annual Sunset in the Vineyard fundraiser is coming up to support the local chapter of the Assistance League. Bonus: it's at one of the coolest historic homes in the SCV. The Signal
  • For a Good Cause: LARC Ranch is hosting a Halloween fundraiser to help offset the substantial water fees they've incurred as the drought presses on. KHTS
  • Losing the Salt: "Also, if you look at your current situation, if it doesn’t rain very soon you’ve got one whale of a problem. Do you really want to take the chance of having to evacuate Southern California if it doesn’t rain?” Is desalinated seawater the answer to our water woes? The Bee digs in. SacBee
  • Tony Brings in the Big Bucks: So far, Tony Strickland has raised about $1.5 million in his pursuit of a Congressional seat, compared to just about $300,000 raised by challenger Steve Knight. The Signal

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Friday, October 17th, 2014 - 12:43pm
  • The Tree Sitter Returns: On the 12th anniversary of his sit-in of Old Glory, the oak tree that now resides in Pico Canyon Park, John Quigley is returning to the park this afternoon. KHTS
  • A Deal is Struck: College of the Canyons and its faculty have come to an agreement on a new contract that includes a 5 percent raise for the 2013-15 years. The Signal
  • Everything's Great, Obviously: Both stories are farily light what officials actually said, but rest assured, Thursday's State of the City luncheon drove home that SClarita is "fit for the future." KHTS The Signal
  • What's in Your Kids' Lunches?: As part of National School Lunch Week, the SCV Food Services Agency that provides lunches for SCV students is hosting an open house. KHTS
  • We Have a Fracking Problem: "(N)early 3 billion gallons of wastewater were illegally injected into central California aquifers and ... half of the water samples collected at the 8 water supply wells tested near the injection sites have high levels of dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, a known carcinogen that can also weaken the human immune system, and thallium, a toxin used in rat poison." So, there might be some issues associated with fracking in California. DeSmogBlog
  • CalArts Keeping It In the Family: CalArts has named Walt Disney's great-nephew to lead its board of Trustees. LA Times
  • Last-Minute Hiring: With Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslovsky terming out on the Board of Supervisors in December, there's apparently a rush in hiring to fill several top positions. KPCC
  • Newhall Post Office Moving: The post office on Lyons Avenue will be moving after its current lease expires, and the USPS is seeking public input on where the new location should be. The Signal
  • Quake Warning System on the Way: The state is on track to have an $80 million earthquake early warning system by 2016. Daily News
  • More Than Token Changes Needed: "If you don't want us prosecuting [marijuana users] in your state, then get your regulatory act together." The outgoing No. 2 at the Justice Department says California needs to do more in terms of regulating the marijuana industry. LA Times
  • Register. Vote.: Monday is the last day to register to vote in the November elections. The Signal
  • Saving Every Drop: "Once we wean ourselves from imported water, water that isn’t harvested locally, we will see our potential for the future. Right now we are not living within our water means." Dry-weather runoff doesn't account for a huge amount, but even collecting water can make a difference. Daily News
  • The Movie Script that Writes Itself: All I'm telling you is that a Dutch biker gang has joined the fight against ISIS. FoxtrotAlpha

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Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - 8:30am
  • Obama Helps Bolster Cemex Opposition: President Obama's declaration of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument may lend support to the city's opposition to Cemex's planned Soledad Canyon mine, which would abut a corner of the monument area. KHTS
  • Another Ranch Gets in the Zone: The city's movie ranch overlay zone got a little bit bigger, with the addition of three more ranches, keeping film dollars in the city. The Signal
  • Saugus Board Looking for a New Face: Rather than a costly special election, the Saugus Union School District board is looking to appoint someone to fill the seat left vacant by member Doug Bryce, who stepped down last month. The Signal 
  • The Rundown: "Kellar, who has complained about residents voting based on incomplete information in the past, is a difficult man to please in terms of how much conversation about a topic is acceptable." If you don't make it out to the City Council meetings or watch them on TV, our local anonymous blogger usually has a good, entertaining overview of what you missed. I Heart SCV
  • Nothing Foul About This Skunk Work: "The situation here seems quite different. First, Lockheed Martin is not a crazy dude working in a garage." Lockheed is hoping to change the future of energy with a new fusion reactor design. Sploid
  • CalArts Student Alleges Mishandling of Rape Charges: "Although Regina, now a 19-year-old sophomore, said she knew she'd been raped the next day, she didn't go to the hospital and get a rape kit, or press charges or tell her family. She felt guilty, she said, that she'd been so drunk." A CalArts student says the school's administration failed to protect her from being harassed by her rapist. Al Jazeera
  • Seeing Green at COC: College of the Canyons is hosting a conservation and sustainability conference this Saturday. KHTS
  • Tumblin' Tumbleweeds: "I once knew a real-estate agent who was deathly afraid of tumbleweeds and really disliked coming out to the desert to show property." Informative piece on tumbleweed by one of the docents at Placerita Nature Center. SCVNews
  • In the Bag for Digi-Boards: Longtime Signal columnist Steve Lunetta says the whole billboard thing is just a tempest in a teapot. And besides, "Our local businesses also get a boost. Access to the e-boards on the freeways are at a discount. If I want to advertise my sushi business on Lyons, I can do so and save money at the same time." At least Uncle Earl hasn't weighed in yet. The Signal

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Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - 7:38am
The latest reports are in. Here is a look at the fundraising totals for each candidate. Strickland is out-raising Knight by a significant margin, but this is Knight's best performance, relative to Strickland, thus far. But most troubling to Knight must be Strickland's nearly 9 to 1 advantage going forward.
Strickland outspent knight in the primary by a significant margin, yet the results were very close. But I don't think Knight can take too much comfort in that, because this general election involves a lot of voters who aren't especially inclined to vote for either candidate. The natural geographic support won't be there as much.
Still, I think a candidate doesn't need more money in order to win, but enough money. In a normal year, Knight would be on the cusp of having enough money. This year, it's hard to tell. Reaching out to non-Republican voters effectively is an expensive endeavor, and if for every Knight mailer, there are five Strickland mailers, it's an uphill battle, to say the least.

*Cash minus debts.

Posted by Mike Devlin   |   3 Comments »
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Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - 2:47pm
This article is dedicated to Mrs. Boone, who lives very near the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, and to her continued hope for her community.
The City of Santa Clarita is a municipally peculiar place, a patchwork of "cities" within a City. My own hometown of Ventura is more straightforward: there is Ventura – and any place past Five Points or the mall is considered the Eastside of Ventura. Ventura’s evolution has been organic, and for the most part, nearby cities such as Oxnard and Carpinteria also evolved in a gradual fashion. When I moved here during college, I had a difficult time untangling whether Newhall was part of Valencia, or just how many communities were incorporated into Santa Clarita. In practice, this consolidated arrangement is rather effective in the Los Angeles suburbs. Santa Clarita is formed of older neighborhoods such as Newhall and Saugus and newer, non-organic tract home neighborhoods that fill the gaps in between. In older towns, leadership tends to be community-based, and master-planned communities organized by a corporate HOA. Incorporating all of these towns into one makes sense; by nature, it equalizes civic representation for everyone. Most of all, it keeps their representation local, instead of at an office in downtown Los Angeles.

Newhall is a good example of how incorporation can be beneficial for smaller communities. The interests of Newhall’s Hispanic population and historical sites are represented locally, not in Downtown Los Angeles. Pooling Santa Clarita’s diverse neighborhoods allows for them to be represented in the same place at a local city hall. 
More than a decade ago, the City of Santa Clarita was fighting the proposed landfill in Elsmere Canyon. Elsmere was a wholly-inappropriate site for a landfill. The area was ecologically sensitive and located over a seismic fault. Santa Clarita was able to fight the siting of the landfill because they were financially independent and accountable to their citizens before the County.
Outside of Santa Clarita proper, there is Val Verde, with a long history of evolution. It has been inhabited by the native Tataviam, the Spanish oil miners who decimated them, by African-Americans who turned it into a resort called, Eureka, and today, by a heterogeneous population of whites and Hispanics. At the time of Santa Clarita’s fight, they had a large pool of community activists, consultants and attorneys to fight the Elsmere landfill. Collectively, they were able to convince federal politicians such as Buck McKeon and Barbara Boxer that the issue was important enough that it would jeopardize their upcoming reelections if they did not act. In contrast, the small town of Val Verde currently relies solely on community volunteerism to fight the landfill. These volunteers are currently expending massive efforts to fight the expansion of Chiquita Canyon Landfill, which could make it the largest landfill operation in the United States. Val Verde is part of Santa Clarita’s “One Valley One Vision” plan, which seems unexpected. It is more likely that in our freewheeling little town, an overhead helicopter is there for a wildfire or a loud Quinceañera – instead of an HOA Christmas-lights violation.
Val Verde’s municipal arrangement is fairly confusing. As an unincorporated town, we are governed by the County and the Board of Supervisors. We have our own Civic Association for local concerns and programs. In addition, Val Verde is part of another unincorporated town, Castaic. As such, Val Verde has two representatives on the Castaic Area Town Council and the question of fair representation has been an issue to many of us as we fight for the health and safety of our community. What happens when the people and entities in charge of keeping communities safe are not part of the community? Does that affect their ability to effectively advocate for these remote communities?
On September 5, 2014, a group of Val Verde residents testified in front of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to request an extension of the comment period of the Draft EIR. Not a single document of the EIR for the landfill expansion has been translated into Spanish.
In an attempt to acquire further local representation, a group of Val Verde residents successfully petitioned the Castaic Area Town Council to have an agenda item added to the upcoming Council meeting last month. They were going to answer Council Members’ questions about the landfill’s effects and how the current mitigation funds have helped or possibly hindered the Val Verde community. Just a few days before the meeting, the Val Verdeans’ agenda item was cancelled. The Council President saw a picture of one of the Val Verde residents testifying at a Board of Supervisors meeting requesting more time for the Draft EIR comment period for monolingual Spanish speakers living near the landfill. He stated that this resident falsely presented herself as a housewife and not as a community activist opposing the expansion of the landfill. The president and the Council stated that they did not want to get involved in taking sides with the landfill or the Community of Val Verde. Fair enough.
If it is not within the Council’s purview to get involved or listen to concerns of residents who disagree with a massive landfill expansion, then what is their purpose? In their own by-laws, Article 2, section B, it states that their purpose is to “provide a frequent forum or other means of gathering for community views, wishes and concerns. “ There has never been a dedicated agenda item for residents of Val Verde, Live Oak or Hasley Hills to express their concerns about the landfill to the council. The Council has never solicited input from residents of any of these areas, either. Many residents in Live Oak and Hasley Hills are unaware of the nature of the expansion or its scope. They occasionally receive extension letters from the County, but they are not specific in nature. The by-laws of the CATC also state that their purpose is to “provide for the expression and enhancement of the community’s values and lifestyles.” It is not likely that their constituents will express their views if they are not made aware.
Not a single document in the Environmental Impact Report was translated into Spanish. This should have been an issue of major concern for the Castaic Area Town Council. The Council is familiar with CEQA/EIR process; they have their own Land Use Committee who review permits and local projects. With this oversight, Latino residents’ participation was not solicited through the California Environmental Quality Act processes which provide for documents to be available in Spanish in areas with large Spanish-speaking populations.
Letter from Bradley Angel to the County of Los Angeles requesting that the County enforce CEQA laws to provide translated documents for the Chiquita Canyon Landfill expansion. The County responds that they are in compliance with all State laws.
The issue of Latino underrepresentation remains a current concern for Greenaction and the California EPA in this process. The City of Santa Clarita also sent a letter to the County requesting an extension of the EIR comment period. We are grateful for the City of Santa Clarita’s support regarding this issue of equality. There have been many cases just like ours in other unincorporated Los Angeles County where EIR documents have not been translated in areas populated by Spanish speakers. A notable case was when a local toxic waste company, Chemical Waste Management, applied to build a toxic waste incinerator in Kettleman City. The local residents demanded that the applicant rewrite the EIR documents to include Spanish versions and filed a lawsuit. The court decided in the residents’ favor. Rather than translate the EIR and its documents, the applicant withdrew their application for the toxic waste incinerator permit.

While the Val Verde agenda item was stricken from the agenda in September, another item was added at the last minute. They added an item regarding a Memorandum of Agreements just days before the meeting – and over a week after the official agenda planning meeting. The previously-distributed agenda was changed to reflect the newly-added Memorandum hearing and vote.
It was apparent that the Castaic Area Town Council was in a rush to push the Memorandum to a vote that night. The Council made a last-minute motion to push the Memorandum item at the beginning of the meeting, out of order of the printed schedule. According to several Council Members, a copy of the contract was given to the remainder of the Council Members a mere four hours before the meeting. This version was sparsely handed out to constituents who visited the meeting that night. It was also the same document that was approved. All versions were watermarked with the word, “draft.”
So on September 17, 2014, the Castaic Area Town Council voted to pass a contract meekly titled, Memorandum of Agreements. The motion passed 6-4.
The Memorandum was drafted in secret between Chiquita Canyon Landfill representatives and a couple of Council Members from the Castaic region, not enough to form a quorum per their by-laws. Based on testimony during the hearing, it appears that Council Members co-authored and approved it without the advice of an attorney. The contract secures 30% of potential mitigation funds from Chiquita Canyon as they strive to become the largest landfill in the nation.

In exchange for money, the Castaic Area Town Council agreed to a sweeping gag order, not only on the Council, but also on its Council Members, their family members, all Castaic area businesses, all Castaic area business owners, and in fact, all Castaic area residents. Council Members are now required to “support all permitting and approval applications for the Project before local, state and federal agencies…including letters, appearances, testimony, telephone calls, and meetings with local, state and federal permitting and consulting agencies with respect to Project entitlements.” The contract also expressly forbids anyone in these categories from participating in the CEQA/EIR process. According to the contract, the landfill can enforce the contract at their discretion and collect legal fees, filing fees and expert fees if they wish to enforce it.

Some of the more controversial sections of the Memorandum of Agreements in black and white.

Castaic will receive 30% of the landfill mitigation funds, even though its town center is 3.6 miles away from the landfill, just as far as Stevenson Ranch.
Not all of the 10 council members voted in favor of passing the Memorandum. Council Members Greg Kimura, Stephanie Ebia, John Kunak and Sandia Ennis all voted against it. John Kunak, Council Member, attorney, and past CATC president, was especially outspoken and urged caution against its passing. He raised concerns about the gag order, about potential taxes in receiving the funds and about the contract’s lack of protections for residents. He also questioned why mitigation funds are needed:
“But I am concerned if we’re jumping ahead and if we get ourself into a situation where things could change – and this agreement only says what’s here, so I’m concerned. Also, the mitigation fee, we have these discussions and we won’t go through them tonight. Are there odors? Are there health hazards? Are there ‘this?’ But the mitigation fee is being given, in part – we’re told you’re nice neighbors – but you’ve given it because there’s a reason. You’re not just going to throw away a million dollars a year just because you feel like doing it. So it’s doing something.
So, if the County decides to take this money, okay, and we don’t get it, we’re still being affected. They’re getting a mitigation fee. (gesturing to Val Verde audience) And if there are problems that we’re still waiting to hear about, health problems and different things, we’re stuck. The County does what they want to do with it. So, that’s my concern on that issue.”
Live Oak and Hasley Hills neighborhoods their representative, John Kunak, a note of thanks. The type of arguments he presented is what is needed in order for the Town Council to advocate for all areas of Castaic.
The Council has a responsibility to notify their residents that they passed this agreement, not only that they will be receiving these funds, but also that it imposes a gag order throughout the life of the agreement. More concerning is that the Supervisor’s office was in communication with the landfill and the Town Council during this document’s development.
There also seems to be an issue with the Council’s ability to perform basic math. They did not have the required two-thirds approval according to their by-laws in article 4, section 2. They had six-tenths, not two-thirds approval. Enforcing a contract such as this, which violates CEQA laws and the First-Amendment of the US Constitution, does not lie within the power of an unincorporated Town Council. The landfill cannot enforce it either, because community members were not signers on the document. Most of all, the County should have known this and advised the Council and the landfill that if those provisions were added, the contract becomes unenforceable.
The word community derives from the Latin word, communis, which means, “things held in common.” It hardly means anything to anyone anymore, since its usage is cliché.
No matter what any landfill representative says, they are not part of our community. Waste Connections has an ever-changing roster of owners based on the month, day, hour and minute – if you factor in frenzied, short-term traders. They do not hike up our trails, they do not participate in our volunteer-based ballet program, they do not send their kids to public schools near a massive landfill and therefore they do not share our common values, needs or experiences. They simply do not see our communities.

The Val Verde Community has a distinctive history and culture. Visually, it stands apart from Castaic. Most of its services are served on the County level, along with a robust level of local volunteerism of its Anglo and Hispanic populations.
The issue here is that members of the Castaic Area Town Council and the County Board of Supervisors do see our communities, they are not non-descript stockholders. They visit affected areas and hear a din of complaints from residents about the proposed expansion. Yet they vote to advocate for the landfill instead of their constituents. The County’s and the Town Council’s interest in Val Verde seems only to be in what it can proffer them by its association and proximity to the landfill.

Castaic is a busy truck stop South of the Tejon Pass and the San Joaquin Valley. The Town of Castaic has accommodated trucking traffic by setting up a Trucking District in their zoning maps. The town also has a water reservoir, Castaic Lake, which also serves a recreational purpose.
If they accept the money, The CATC should make sure that the funds are spent in the areas of Live Oak and Hasley Hills, who will be most affected and will not be able to use the funds for health or environmental monitoring. Val Verde is prevented from spending their own mitigation funds for health or air quality monitoring, which is what is really needed. It sounds outrageous that the mitigation money cannot be used to mitigate the effects of the landfill. Any contract that does not allow the mitigation funds to mitigate the effects of the landfill in terms of health and air/soil quality is not a mitigation agreement. It is hush money.
The decision to approve the contract left several Val Verde residents feeling disenfranchised. After the September 17th vote, a Val Verde resident submitted a California Public Records Act request to the Castaic Area Town Council for information regarding the development of the Memorandum between the landfill and the Council. The Council responded by holding an emergency meeting to hire an attorney to deal with the PRA request. The resident was later declined information contained in the request and was told the The Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act did not apply to the Castaic Area Town Council.
Their stance appears outrageous, but there is some truth in the Council’s position. The Council was not formed by legislation, a County body, or by an elected or appointed County official, which would make it subject to The Act. It also does not receive outright funding from the County; the Council holds fundraisers for their operational costs. They state that they are merely an advisory committee, and for the most part, they are.
The issue of open-government laws and unincorporated town councils is a hotly-debated topic throughout Los Angeles County. Many residents who live in unincorporated areas have little local representation and look to these advisory bodies for advocacy. In 2005, the Agua Dulce Town Council decided that they were not subject to The Brown Act. They were taken to court by the residents and were forced to comply with the Act. The main findings of the court were that because the Agua Dulce Town Council was formed by a charter and because there was no other body in Agua Dulce masquerading as The Agua Dulce Town Council, they were required to comply with The Brown Act. While this case establishes precedent, there still are Town Councils in LA County who do not comply with the act – most recently in Altadena and Sun Village.
The question remains: why should anyone bother to visit these committees if they have no real power? I think the answer lies in the fact that they appear to. Most people are not familiar with municipal law, and if you have an issue you want addressed, you head to the local town council or city hall. The CATC has a bevy of local agencies that report to the Council at their regular meetings. It appears official. Perhaps the best way to avoid this confusion is to name the organization something that reflects its role and responsibilities – call it a Community Advisory Committee instead of a Town Council.
Most unincorporated town councils voluntarily comply with The Brown Act and include its provisions in their by-laws. In terms of Castaic’s eligibility, it could be strongly argued that the CATC meets all of the requirements in the Agua Dulce decision. Furthermore, because they hold their meetings in a government building, the School District Office hearing room, and because they receive monetary sponsorship from the County for their fundraisers, it can be said that they are being funded by governmental organizations. By passing the Memorandum of Agreements and its controversial inclusions, they qualify as a legislative body, not an advisory board.
It is the County’s responsibility to protect its unincorporated citizens and their needs. What are the needs of a community and the needs of a person? Castaic says they need a specially-designated Little League field; they hope the mitigation funds will pay for it. What do people need? All we need is food, water, shelter and air – clean air.
If you understand why local representation is crucial for the health of communities, please check out the Citizens for Chiquita Canyon Landfill Compliance and their active Facebook page. These community volunteers are working indefatigably on educating not only Val Verde about the proposed landfill expansion, but also the many surrounding neighborhoods which will be affected if the landfill expansion is approved.
Photo collages ©Sara Sage. Individual photos ©Sara Sage, David Sage & Jeremiah Dockray

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Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 - 8:30am
  • Another Chapter in the Einstein Saga: Almost one year after it was requested by the county Office of Education, an audit of Albert Einstein Academy has not been wrapped up by the same team that recently wrapped up an audit very critical of the Acton Agua Dulce school district's fiscal situation. KHTS
  • Golf Course Cutbacks: In the face of continued drought, Robinson Ranch is alternating closure days to better conserve water. KHTS
  • New Courts for Santa Clarita: Tennis courts, that is. The City Council signed off on a design contract with the same firm that designed the other phases of Central Park. The Signal
  • No Charges in Grow House Arrest: The DA's office is opting not to prosecute the couple arrested with some 70 marijuana plants in their house earlier this year. That was the same house that, a few months later, found men posing as police forcing their way in, tying up occupants and looting the house. Am I the only one who thinks something isn't adding up here? The Signal
  • Forum or Against 'Em: If you missed Saturday's candidate forum between Steve Knight and Tony Strickland, it's streaming online. SCVTV
  • Nuclear Questions: Gizmodo provides a break from all the Ebola terror to ask "What would happen in nukes went off in 20 major U.S. cities?" Gizmodo
  • That's Not the Sheriff's Department Calling: The Sheriff's Department put out a release yesterday, warning people that phone scammers are making the rounds, claiming to need money to take care of arrest warrants. KHTS

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